Indians sign Damon

   April 12, 2012 10:13 pm

 

The Cleveland Indians added some veteran experience, and maybe an offensive boost, to its lineup late Thursday.

According to several sources, the Indians signed outfielder/DH Johnny Damon to a one-year, $1.25 million deal. Damon, 38, can make another $1.4 million in performance bonuses.

Damon, who played for the Tampa Bay Rays last season, could share time with Shelley Duncan in left field and spot Travis Hafner at DH. Damon could also take over the starting job in left if the Tribe feels Duncan is better suited in the reserve role he served last season.

Duncan (.294, 1 HR, 2 RBIs) has been one of the few bright spots in the Indians’ 1-4 start. Cleveland, which is hitting an MLB-worst .176 to start the season, was just 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position in Wednesday’s 10-6 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

It’s a good move for the Indians, who have been looking for a veteran bat since Grady Sizemore has been out following back surgery. Sizemore is not eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list until June 3.

There’s little risk in adding a winning presence for such a low investment.

Damon had the following to say in a radio interview Thursday:

“I’m going to do everything I can to play great, and hopefully when Sizemore comes back, there’s still a spot for me, still some playing time for me. I know what Cleveland really wanted. They wanted somebody with a winning mentality and someone who has been there and done that, and obviously I’ve been around for a long time.”

Damon, who was the Rays primary DH last season, still has some speed left in his legs (he had 19 steals on 25 attempts in 2011) and could help the Indians on the base paths as well.

Although his batting average has dropped over the past few years, he still hit a decent .261 with 16 homers and 73 RBIs in 150 games last season. If Damon comes close to those numbers again, I think the Indians will be pleased.

–Tony Battaglia

 

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