White Sox could be Damon front-runners
Free agent plays golf event with Pierzynski, Harrelson
CHICAGO -- Monday's round of golf played in Orlando involving White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, television play-by-play man Ken "Hawk" Harrelson and Johnny Damon certainly was not designed as a Chicago recruiting pitch for the talented outfielder.
Instead, it was an outing for Dr. Phillips High School, where Pierzynski, Damon and Harrelson's son, Casey, who also took part, all once attended. Of course, the White Sox pursuit of the free-agent left-handed hitter was not an out-of-bounds topic over the 18 holes.
"Certainly that came up," said Harrelson during a Wednesday appearance on the Waddle and Silvy Show on ESPN 1000 in Chicago. "That was not the purpose of the outing."
Whatever was said to Damon, though, appeared to have helped the South Siders' cause. Various reports on Wednesday indicate the White Sox have moved ahead of Detroit as the favorite to land the veteran, who would serve as the team's primary designated hitter.
FOXSports.com indicated that the White Sox's one-year offer included heavy deferrals, with a present-day value in the $4.5 million range. The bottom line is that Damon simply might prefer the situation in Chicago over the possible opportunity in Detroit.
Without Damon, the White Sox left-handed offense will come from Pierzynski, Mark Teahen, Mark Kotsay, Juan Pierre and switch-hitter Omar Vizquel -- although Mark Buehrle did go deep once last year. The highest home run total among this group belongs to Pierzynski with 13.
The American League Central is right-handed heavy in elite starting pitchers, meaning the White Sox could benefit from having a little left-handed punch. Damon, 36, certainly is not a classic home run threat, even after matching his career-high of 24 dingers with the Yankees in 2009. But Damon has plenty of extra-base and run-producing potential, a trait stressed in the aggressive 2010 White Sox approach.
Damon has produced at least 30 doubles in 10 of his 15 big league seasons, while reaching double-digits in home runs on 11 occasions. He even produced double-digit triples in three campaigns.
Ozzie Guillen's DH-by-committee plan effectively would be scrapped if Damon comes aboard. Damon has played 14 full seasons and never has had less than 524 plate appearances in any of those campaigns. He's been over 600 plate appearances in each of the last 12 years.
General manager Ken Williams has spoken of Andruw Jones and Kotsay primarily being brought in as the team's fourth and fifth outfielders, with Kotsay also backing up first baseman Paul Konerko. Guillen will get them at-bats, but probably not as many as originally planned, although a Damon addition would give the White Sox one of the division's best benches.
More than just the raw statistics, Damon brings that championship attitude, as explained by Harrelson.
"Johnny Damon would be a good fit anywhere. He's that kind of player," Harrelson said. "I watched him his whole high school and professional career, starting in Kansas City [from 1995-2000], and he's a winner.
"He is a contributor. He's great in the clubhouse. We have some pretty good players here already, but Johnny is a guy who can make a difference."
Pierzynski played down Monday's recruiting aspect, as the decision ultimately rests with Damon -- regardless of the information provided. But Damon and Pierzynski have paired up successfully aside from high school, working on one of TNA Pro Wrestling's most successful pay-per-view events in December 2005.
It was Damon who entered the front row near the ring just prior to the six-man tag match, in which Pierzynski served as a co-manager for the team featuring Dale "The Demon" Torborg. It also was Damon who gave Pierzynski a loaded home plate, which Pierzynski cracked over the head of Simon Diamond to eventually lead to the pin.
Now, the White Sox hope for that same successful combination to play out again, with a little less violence.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.