Red Sox welcome Matsuzaka
Dec. 14: Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein introduces Japanese ace pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka at a news conference in Boston.
NEW YORK - Johnny Damon has his own $52 million contract and no regrets that the Boston Red Sox didn’t give him that amount last winter.
Boston announced its $52 million, six-year agreement with pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka on Thursday — nearly one year after the Red Sox allowed their center fielder to switch to the New York Yankees for the exact same amount.
“That’s water under the bridge,” Damon said during a telephone conference call. “I got a great offer and a great contract from the Yankees and I’m happy. You can’t always look back and say what could have been. I think I’m in a pretty good situation.
“Maybe they learned a lot from what happened last year. They finished in third place. They definitely needed to go out and make a statement, and it seems like they’re kind of doing that. So it’s definitely going to be another great year in the American League East,” he said.
Matsuzaka is viewed as a possible No. 1 starter for the Red Sox, who also have added outfielder J.D. Drew and shortstop Julio Lugo.
“They picked up a guy who could be an ace in the major leagues — that’s yet to be seen,” Damon said. “But we all know J.D. Drew is a very talented player. But as far as we’re concerned, we brought back Andy Pettitte, a guy who knows how to play in New York, knows how to deal with pressure, who knows how to win big games, especially in the postseason. I think we improved. We didn’t need to improve anywhere on the offensive side. I think we’re getting our pitchers ready. I can’t wait to hit in this great lineup again next year.”
New York also is trying to sign its own Japanese pitcher, Kei Igawa, bidding $26,000,194. The Yankees, who have until Dec. 28 to work out a deal, have been discussing a five-year contract that would be worth about $20 million.
Damon batted .285 with 24 homers, 80 RBIs and 25 steals in his first season with the Yankees. He played through several injuries.
“The foot is great, the back is great,” he said. “The shoulder, I’m working it out every day.”
On another topic, Damon said he’s prefer that the Yankees keep Bernie Williams for another season. With the emergence of Melky Cabrera, general manager Brian Cashman hasn’t committed to bringing back Williams.
“He can still run. He can still hit,” Damon said. “It’s a no-brainer for us. If I had to go play first base, I’d do it for a few games here and there just so we can work Bernie in.”
Damon also is in favor of New York signing first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, his teammate on Boston’s 2004 World Series championship team.
He also thinks former Oakland teammate Barry Zito, who has been pursued by the Mets, would thrive in New York.
“He comes from the Planet Zito. It’s not going to bother him,” he said. “I think he would have a very positive impact. I think he will be comfortable very quickly.”
On the conference call, Damon also talked about his wife, Michelle, who is pregnant and due to give birth around Jan. 1.
“She’s all belly, and we’re counting the days,” he said.
NEW YORK (AP) - Yankees fans showed Don Mattingly the love from the moment he took the lineup card to home plate Wednesday. Hiroki Kuroda, though, wasn't feeling nostalgic when facing his old team.
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