05/09/10 2:11 PM ET
Harwell tribute, then Damon-Yanks reunion
By Bailey Stephens / MLB.com
After four successful years in pinstripes (capped by a World Series championship in November), an offseason of uncertainty and a one-year contract with the Tigers signed in February, Damon will square off against the Yankees for the first time during the regular season when the two teams start a four-game series at Comerica Park.
The reunion will be one-sided, however, since Curtis Granderson, who launched his career in Detroit before being traded to the Yankees in a winter blockbuster, is on the DL with a groin injury and isn't making the trip.
"I think it's always good to see guys that you played with, guys that you managed," Yankees skipper 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 [on Monday]."
First, though, the mood will be somber.
Prior to the 7:05 p.m. ET game, the Tigers will honor late broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who died Tuesday at age 92. The event will include a video tribute for the Hall of Famer, the introduction of black uniform patches, a flag with Harwell's initials -- which will be raised by prominent former Tigers -- and Harwell's longtime broadcast partner, Paul Carey, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
"You have to be proud of the life that he was able to have by enjoying this game of baseball," Damon said about Harwell recently.
Monday will kick off a week down memory lane for Damon, whose team will also host the Red Sox from Friday to Sunday.
The Yankees head to Detroit with a 6-2 record in May and are a half-game back of the Rays in the AL East, while the Tigers are 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Twins in the AL Central and are trying to bounce back from a 1-4 road trip.
This may be the first time Damon faces the Yankees in a game that counts. But he certainly had a positive experience against them in Grapefruit League play.
When facing off against the Yankees for the first time on March 13, he notched an RBI single and a solo homer. Then, in Tampa, Fla., on March 28 -- an eventual rainout -- he was greeted with a standing ovation from the fans and on-field applause from Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira.
Damon made it known this offseason that he originally wanted to return to New York. But he's at peace with how things turned out.
"Personally, I had four great years [in New York], and you can never take away the championship," said Damon, who's batting .294 with 14 RBIs in 31 games. "They went a different way, and so did I. Both places are happy with how things are going."
Yankees: Mitre gets first 2010 start
Sergio Mitre will get his first start of the season on Monday in place of Andy Pettitte, who was skipped in the rotation because of inflammation in his left elbow. The right-hander is expected to be stretched out to about 65-70 pitches. ... The Yankees have a long list of walking wounded these days. The latest casualty is reliever Alfredo Aceves, who left Saturday's 14-3 win over the Red Sox early with lower back soreness after he stumbled off the mound awkwardly following a pitch. "I think we're going to take two or three days just to make sure it's not getting worse," said Aceves, who believed it was the same issue that cost him time during Spring Training.
Tigers: Thomas gets spot start for scratched D-Train
Tigers left-hander Dontrelle Willis was scratched from his scheduled start Monday against the Yankees with an unspecified illness. Willis had been scratched from a start last month at Texas with a stomach virus but had made his last two starts on turn. It is not known whether he has a recurrence of the same illness. Lefty reliever Brad Thomas will start in Willis' place. Thomas filled in for Willis when he was scratched last month, too.
Last season, the Yankees took five out of six from the Tigers and outscored Detroit, 30-15. ... Miguel Cabrera has strong numbers against many teams, but his career work against the Yankees is noteworthy. The Tigers' first baseman has a career .357 average with three homers and 10 RBIs in 56 career at-bats against New York. ... The Yankees lead the AL in batting average, runs and on-base percentage.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.