Notes: Damon relaxed and ready
Sans media circus, center fielder reports to Yanks camp
TAMPA, Fla. -- Johnny Damon officially checked in for his second season as a Yankee on Tuesday, flashing a natural smile and no regrets.
One year after he dealt his 'Idiot' status with the frat-house Boston Red Sox for the corporate image of Yankees pinstripes, Damon said he is thankful to be right where he is.
"Everyone knew it was a tough situation and decision to come here," Damon said. "In the end, every part of me is happy."
His transition was evident; the large media swarms which blanketed Legends Field last year in anticipation of seeing a clean-shaven Damon have evaporated, with Damon now widely accepted as a part of the Yankees' present and future.
"The hardest part of the transition was probably the unknown," Damon said. "I wanted to be accepted so badly. ... I knew the Yankees and always wanted to be a Yankee, even dating back to when I was a [Kansas City] Royal.
"It was kind of like the time finally came, and you just always want to do good. The fear of failure gets a lot of people going."
Damon -- who batted .285 with 24 home runs, 80 RBIs and 25 stolen bases in his first year for New York -- was a natural fit, according to general manager Brian Cashman.
"He was one of the very few who had a seamless transition to success here from success elsewhere," Cashman said. "He was the same great player for us as he was for [Boston], from the beginning."
The 33-year-old center fielder reports that a broken bone in his foot has healed to the point where he is able to begin running again, and that his shoulder has gone through a few light throwing workouts with no complaints.
He has resumed weight lifting and said he has regained strength, though part of the spring will need to be spent getting into game shape.
"I was a little banged up," Damon said. "I wanted to rest a lot."
Damon also noted that his six-week-old daughter, Devon Rose, is already balancing and standing.
"I think she'll be walking or running by six months," Damon joked.
The 66-year-old skipper has been under the weather with flu-like symptoms for the past several days, and admitted that he felt "a little overwhelmed" by a large audience awaiting him behind closed doors.
"You walk in there and there's 60-something people," Torre said. "Pitchers and catchers spoil you a little bit, because you can look each one in the face."
Torre and Cashman were among the speakers in the meeting, which touched upon dealing with the media and handling off-the-field distractions.
Most importantly, though, Torre said the speech gave him an opportunity to address last season's playoff exit and any concern that the Yankees' season was a "failure" because of their first-round elimination to the Detroit Tigers.
"I let them know how proud I was of what they did last year," Torre said. "You win 97 games, you can't negate all that by having 2 1/2 bad games, even though it's easy because those games mean too much.
"We did too many good things to have these guys think that there's something major they need to change."
Beam me up: Reliever T.J. Beam rolled with the punches Tuesday when he discovered the nameplate above his locker had been altered by an unknown prankster. The professionally-lettered tag now reads "Jim Beam."
"It's just someone having fun with me," the 26-year-old Beam said. "It's not like I haven't heard it before, going back to when I was 15. The worst thing you can do is get mad at it."
For the record, Beam isn't a fan of the Kentucky bourbon whiskey that his nameplate now references.
"I don't even drink the stuff," he said.
Studying the pitcher: Right-hander Matt DeSalvo is a voracious reader, currently working on a selection of five books at once. He was ripping through the H.P. Lovecraft classic, "At the Mountains of Madness," before Torre's meeting on Tuesday.
Don't expect some of DeSalvo's teammates to be borrowing too many science fiction novels. Locker neighbor Steven Jackson asked DeSalvo to produce a non-fiction book about historical warfare, but it wasn't in the hurler's inventory.
"I could read anything about war all day long," Jackson said.
Legendary groups: The Yankees batted in eight designated groups on Tuesday, outlined on a sheet in the clubhouse as "Yogi" one through four and "Reggie" one through four.
Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson are both listed as guest instructors for this year's Spring Training, but neither has officially checked into camp yet.
Berra called Torre during a meeting with reporters last week to make sure pitching coach Ron Guidry would be available to pick him up from the airport. Berra also wanted to ensure his golf clubs would be safely transported from New Jersey to Tampa.
Quotable: "I hope I'm on the way back. I'm not ready to go to the gym yet." -- Torre, discussing his recent illness
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.