Damon's foresight correct: He's cut by Indians
Veteran outfielder leaves 231 career hits shy of 3,000; Cleveland promotes Carrera
DETROIT -- Johnny Damon saw the writing on the wall. Less than two weeks ago, the veteran outfielder knew his days with the Indians -- given his performance and the team's stumble in the standings -- could be numbered.
"If we're not in contention," Damon told MLB.com on July 21, "I'll be the first one they drop."
On Friday, Cleveland designated Damon for assignment, ending his brief tenure with the Tribe. To replace Damon on the active roster, the Indians recalled speedy outfielder Ezequiel Carrera from Triple-A Columbus.
Indians general manager Chris Antonetti made the drive from Cleveland to Detroit to deliver the news to Damon in person, with manager Manny Acta present. It marked the second such move in as many days for Cleveland, which designated veteran pitcher Derek Lowe for assignment on Thursday.
"We had to make a tough decision," Acta said. "Johnny is just first class. He made an impact on a lot of people here, despite not performing the way he was expecting and how we were expecting. I can only imagine how much impact he could've made here if he would've performed better.
"He gave everything he had. He was really helpful to some of our young kids. He was a total pro about it."
Damon was not available for comment, but he saw the decision coming.
"The team needs to work toward the future," he said in that recent interview. "Obviously it's up to Chris [Antonetti], but that's the way I see it."
Cleveland now has 10 days to either trade or release Damon. Another option would be to send him outright to a Minor League affiliate if he clears waivers, but that third scenario seems highly unlikely at this point.
Entering Friday, the Indians were mired in a six-game losing streak and had dropped 7 1/2 games behind the American League Central-leading White Sox in the division race. Cleveland headed into Detroit on the heels of back-to-back three-game sweeps at the hands of the Twins and Royals.
Damon, who signed a one-year contract worth $1.25 million with Cleveland on April 17, hit just .222 (46-for-207) with four home runs, six doubles and 19 RBIs in 64 games with the ballclub. After hitting .152 in his first 22 games with the Indians, Damon began to improve, posting a .295 average with three homers and 12 RBIs in 34 games from May 30-July 21.
In his most recent eight games, though, Damon hit at a .130 clip for the reeling Tribe.
Cleveland represented the seventh organization -- four teams in the past four years -- to employ Damon over his storied 18-year career. The 38-year-old outfielder leaves the Indians with 2,769 career hits on his resume, which also includes a .284 average to go along with a .352 on-base percentage, 235 homers, 522 doubles, 408 stolen bases and 1,139 RBIs.
Damon spent time with the Royals, A's, Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers and Rays before agreeing to sign with the Indians this season. He is best known for his time in Boston and New York, though. Damon hit .304 with 20 homers and 94 RBIs in helping the 2004 Red Sox to their first World Series title since 1918, and he was later a part of the Yankees' run to the 2009 title.
Damon admitted recently that retirement has crossed his mind.
"I've been a pretty good hitter throughout my career," Damon said, "and I still expect that kind of stuff from myself. When it doesn't happen, you start thinking about [retirement] a bit more."
Acta has a feeling Damon will try to latch on with another team.
"He's still a guy who can move around pretty good," Acta said. "I think he was affected by missing Spring Training. I have a sense that he's probably going to continue to play. He's open to joining someone else."
In Carrera, the Indians have a fast outfielder capable of manning all three positions. He spent 68 games with Cleveland last season and Acta immediately threw him back in the mix, batting him ninth and giving him the nod as the left fielder for Friday's game against the rival Tigers.
During his stay with the Tribe in 2011, Carrera hit .243 with eight doubles, three triples, 10 stolen bases, 14 RBIs and 27 runs scored.
"Last year was last year," Carrera said. "This year, it's a new opportunity for me. I'll do my job -- bunts, running -- whatever I can do to help the team."
Carrera has enjoyed a strong season for Columbus, hitting .294 with six homers, 19 doubles, six triples, 26 stolen bases, 42 RBIs and 65 runs in 97 games. The left-handed-hitting outfielder batted .297 against lefties and .293 off righties, while fashioning a .315 average with runners in scoring position.
"He has been playing very good over there," Acta said. "He's been using the whole field and playing good defese. One thing [we told him] is just to come up here and control what he can control, have some fun an take advantage of the opportunity without putting pressure on himself.
"Hopefully he an provide a spark here with his speed and his defense."