Yanks-Tigers has look of a reunion
Even with Granderson sidelined, Damon a central figure
When the Yankees take the field at Comerica Park on Monday night, there will be an all-too-familiar face across the way. Johnny Damon, one of the heroes of last season's World Series championship team, will play his first game against the Yanks since signing with the Tigers during Spring Training.
"I think it's always good to see guys that you played with, guys that you managed," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "The Tigers have been playing pretty well, so we'll have four tough games there. But it will be good to see Johnny. I'm sure there will be some laughs tomorrow."
Damon spent four seasons in Yankees pinstripes, batting .285 in that time and twice hitting a career-high 24 home runs. Damon raised his game during the Yankees' championship run in 2009, hitting .327 with two homers and nine RBIs in the American League Championship Series and World Series. But he'll be most remembered for his heroics in the top of the ninth inning in Game 4 of the Fall Classic, when his two-out single and famous double steal helped the Yankees build a 3-1 series advantage.
Some New York fans already paid homage to Damon during Spring Training, when the outfielder received a prolonged ovation during a Tigers-Yankees game in Tampa, Fla., on March 28. The game was held up for a moment while Damon acknowledged the applause -- some of which even came from Yankees stars Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, who removed their gloves to clap for their former teammate.
Damon entered Monday's game batting .302 with one home run and 14 RBIs for the Tigers this season.
Damon isn't the only Tigers outfielder with whom the Yankees are familiar, though. Austin Jackson, the former prized prospect of the New York organization, is off to a sizzling start in the Motor City, leading the AL with a .371 average in his rookie season. Jackson took home AL Rookie of the Month honors in April in one of the easiest calls in the award's history.
"We always thought he was a talented player," Girardi said of Jackson. "I had seen a lot of progress in the two Spring Trainings that I had seen him, 2008 and 2009. I don't think you'll ever predict that someone is going to hit .370 -- that just doesn't happen -- but he has played great for Detroit."
The player the Yankees received in exchange for Jackson and others, Curtis Granderson, did not make the trip to his former stomping grounds because of the strained left groin that has had him on the disabled list since May 2.
Granderson had been eagerly awaiting the Yankees' lone series this year at his former home, especially since he had friends and family planning to make the trip from Chicago to see him.
"I was looking forward to seeing friends and teammates that I haven't talked to over there," Granderson said. "I've got to stay back and get better. I probably wouldn't have been able to do anything; I'd still be inside getting treatment."
Granderson played for the Tigers from 2004-09, amassing 102 home runs and 299 RBIs in Detroit before being traded to the Bronx in the offseason.
Granderson is still hopeful for a chance to visit Comerica Park later in the season, though.
"Maybe I'll run into them in October," Granderson said.
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.