All Johnny Damon needed to hear from Tigers manager Jim Leyland and/or general manager Dave Dombrowski was reassurance that the team still wanted him and would continue to play him.
If Leyland told him the Tigers, well out of the postseason race, were going to go with their youngsters, Damon would have agreed to join the Red Sox, who put in a waiver claim on their former outfielder Monday.
But that’s not what he heard.
Leyland told him, “Do what your heart tells you.’’
But that wasn’t all Leyland said.
“Is he going to play here the rest of the season? Yes, he’s going to play,’’ Leyland said. “Is he going to play every game? No. He hasn’t played every game up to this point.
“Am I going to sit Johnny Damon on the bench and forget about him? No, he’s going to play a lot. Am I going to look at a kid once in a while and give him a day? Yeah. It’s that simple.’’
That’s all Damon needed to hear. So he ended the suspense about whether he would accept a trade or assignment to Boston by announcing to the Tigers media shortly after meeting with Leyland yesterday that he was staying in Detroit.
Damon said he thought long and hard about a return to Boston. He was encouraged by a Boston.com poll in which more than 60 percent of almost 5,000 respondents were in favor of him returning. Damon seemed heartened by that, but he felt a bond with his Tiger teammates, has enjoyed mentoring young outfielder Austin Jackson, and loves playing for Leyland.