Damon: 'I'm still the same guy'

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Damon: 'I'm still the same guy'

BOSTON Johnny Damon sat in the visitor's dugout at Fenway Park before Thursday night's game against his former Red Sox club, mohawk intact and sleeveless t-shirt that read, "There's no safety on these guns," with arrows pointing to his arms.

Since his final season season with the Red Sox in 2005, Damon hasn't changed at all. He even pointed that out himself.

"I'm still the nice, big-smiling guy who still enjoys what he's doing," he said before leading off and playing left field for the Cleveland Indians on Thursday night.

Like his previous returns to Fenway, Damon expects to hear some boos. He also expects some to remember that he was a major part of the Red Sox first championship in 86 years.

"I think there's fans out there who do cheer for me and who do really enjoy what I've brought to the table here," he said. "But fans are going to boo me. I think Reggie Jackson said it best, 'Fans don't boo nobodies.' And they know that I can go out there and do some damage and help my team win.

"I get booed everywhere, so, I'm used to it. I've been loved and hated everywhere, but I'm still the same guy."

Damon signed with the Indians in April. He's gone 5-for-30 with zero home runs and two RBI in eight games (all in the month of May). That's a .167 average. And he admits he's not swinging the bat well. So right now, 3,000 hits seems like a tall task, even just 272 hits away from the milestone.

"If it happens, it happens," said Damon. "With the way I'm swinging the bat right now, it'll probably take a good 10 years."

Damon doesn't know where that 3,000th hit will take place, if it does happen. But he doesn't seem to be ready to call it quits anytime soon.

"I was sitting at home, staying in shape, hitting every now and then," he said, while acknowledging that he never was approached by the Red Sox. "But yeah, I was ready to answer anybody's call. I knew if I sat at home for a little bit longer, I just may not leave. But I didn't want to have any regrets. And when they called me, I thought about it for a couple of days. And then I jumped on it. I didn't want to sit around a year from now, saying what could have been or should have happened."

Damon said he was never approached by the Red Sox about a contract for this season. And while he reminisced before Thursday's game, he also said that playing for Boston felt like a long time ago.

"It seems like it's been a while," said Damon. "We're on seven years now? Yup, seven, and it seems like a long time ago. I know a lot of players that have come and gone since then.

"It's strange, especially since I left this team and how many more teams I ended up playing for. I never really envisioned this, on my seventh team now. But you've got to do what you've got to do. I wanted to keep on playing, and playing brought me to Cleveland this year. And hopefully we can keep playing well. And hopefully I can get my bat going."

Damon's Indians enter the series with a two-game lead over the Detroit Tigers for first place in the American League Central. Their 17 wins is five more than what the Red Sox currently have in the win column.

He said he's not surprised with the way the last-place Red Sox have started, because he knows they'll turn it around in a 162-game season.

"They're notoriously a slow-starting team," said Damon. "Everybody knows they're a good team. They just have to find their way. Hopefully it's not during this weekend. But, they have talent there. So, it's just a matter of time."

As for the rest of his time with the Indians, Damon knows that once Grady Sizemore returns from back surgery in June, there will be a battle for playing time in the outfield. He hopes he can improve his .167 batting average before then, so that he won't be on the outside looking in.

"Hopefully I'm doing well enough so I can warrant to still get some playing time and play. But I also know the dynamic that Grady Sizemore does bring. And we'll really have to wait and see. I'm sure if I'm hitting like I am right now, there's really not too many places to go.

"But that being said, when Grady does get in the mix, I think it can be a nice rotation. Right now, I'm playing a lot out there . . . When Grady does get here, it will be interesting to see what happens."

Sandoval happy to return to the field after shoulder surgery

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Sandoval happy to return to the field after shoulder surgery

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- For the first time in months, Pablo Sandoval met up with his Red Sox teammates Wednesday, breaking from his rehab program two hours away in Fort Myers.

Sandoval, who underwent shoulder surgery in April to repair a torn labrum, has been working out six days per week at the club's spring training complex and appeared noticeably lighter.

"I just starting taking ground balls two days ago,'' said Sandoval. "I feel a little better. I'm happy to be back here with my teammates and happy that I'm starting to work in the field.'' 

Sandoval said his surgically repaired left shoulder is "not back to normal, but it's feeling a lot better. I've started doing a lot of things in the field -- ground balls, playing catch, handling the ball, working out.''

He plans to see Dr. James Andrews soon, and hopes to get clearance to start swinging a bat.

Sandoval appeared to make some veiled references to his weight and conditioning, saying "you learn a lot. You learn from all the mistakes you make, all the things in the past. I have good people around me, supporting me every single day.''

He added that he feels "way different'' than he did in spring training.

"Now that I've learned my lesson,'' he said, "I can do a better job out there. Everything out there is not easy. You have to work hard to learn all the things you were doing wrong. I'll keep working hard and do everything I can to be a better person on the field and off the field.''

As he grinds through conditioning and rehab, Sandoval said he's motivated by "my little boy (Leon). Every time I wake up, I want to do everything for (him), so he can see me back on the field, playing baseball.''

He deflected a question when asked what role he envisioned for himself next February at the start of spring training.

"Whatever,'' he said. "I'm just going to do best that I can. I just want to prepare myself to be better next year.''

Sandoval met with John Farrell Wednesday afternoon.

"He's in good spirits,'' Farrell said. "I think he feels good with all the work he's done. To date, he's done a good job with what he's been capable of doing. The one thing that's clear in getting to know Pablo, I see a guy who's got a lot of pride. Maybe things haven't worked out the way he anticipated through the first two years.

"But it's clear through my conversation with him that he's motivated, he feels like he's got a lot to prove. And I think when you combine his ability with the drive and motivation, this has got a chance to prove to be a productive player here in Boston.''

Meanwhile, Sandoval acknowledged that the Red Sox had not seen him at his best in his two seasons with the club.

"I know that I can prove more and do a better job out there,'' he said. "Things happen for a reason. I'm happy, but I'm not satisfied with the things I'm doing. I'm just going to keep working hard, continue my rehab and be better for next year.''

Sandoval said he misses the game, but watches the Red Sox on TV "every single day.''

"This (time down) is a bonus for me,'' he said. "I want to play, but at the same time, I (get) to see my baby growing up.''

 

All signs point to Rodriguez returning to rotation Sunday, Buchholz to bullpen

All signs point to Rodriguez returning to rotation Sunday, Buchholz to bullpen

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It won't be made official until Thursday, but all signs point to Eduardo Rodriguez returning to the Red Sox' starting rotation Sunday night against the Kansas City Royals.

That, in turn, should also result in Clay Buchholz going back to the bullpen after three spot starts recently.

Rodriguez, who pulled himself out of his last scheduled start Sunday in Detroit when he wasn't confident that he could compete with a strained left hamstring, threw a three-inning simulated game Tuesday and emerged from that session convinced that he was heading toward a return to the rotation.

But just to make sure, the Sox want Rodriguez to test himself physically Thursday morning before the Sox complete their road trip with a game here Thursday afternoon.

"He went through some aggressive long toss today,'' said John Farrell of Rodriguez, "and came out that feeling fine, no restrictions in the hamstring. We'll take this each work day at a time. Once we get through tomorrow, we'll have a little bit more clarity going forward.''

Buchholz threw 94 pitches while allowing a run on five hits over 6 1/3 innings Tuesday night, so he wouldn't be available out of the bullpen for a few days.

"He's going to need a couple of days down regardless,'' noted Farrell.

 

Wednesday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Ramirez gets night off

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Wednesday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Ramirez gets night off

Hanley Ramirez is getting a night off as the Red Sox look for their third straight win against the Rays tonight at Tropicana Field.

Travis Shaw will play first base, with Brock Holt at third.

Tonight's lineups:

RED SOX:
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Sandy Leon C
Brock Holt 3B
Travis Shaw 1B
Andrew Benintendi LF
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Rick Porcello P

RAYS:
Logan Forsythe 2B
Kevin Kiermaier CF
Evan Longoria 3B
Brad Miller SH
Matt Duffy SS
Logan Morrison 1B
Steven Souza Jr. RF
Corey Dickerson LF
Bobby Wilson C
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Matt Andriese P