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Damon not ruling out return to Yankees at some point

Johnny Damon said he is close to a

Johnny Damon said he is close to a deal with Cleveland. Credit: John Dunn

When the Yankees agreed to terms with Nick Johnson last month, Johnny Damon - aware that his time in pinstripes had come to an end - sent a text message to general manager Brian Cashman, thanking him for four memorable years.

Six weeks later, however, Damon - still unemployed - is not yet fully ready to close the door on the Bronx. Or, at least, he can't wait to come back.

"I'm not ruling it out, being in New York [this coming season]," Damon told WFAN's Mike Francesa in an interview broadcast Friday. "Whether I start the season with them, or maybe they'll trade for me at the deadline, or sign me next year, or whatnot."

At this point, the only way the Yankees conceivably could sign Damon would be if one of their outfielders suffered a serious injury. They have Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and Randy Winn ready to go, plus Rule 5 draft selection Jamie Hoffmann a candidate to serve as the fifth outfielder.

Damon has an offer of about $7 million from the Athletics, but he didn't enjoy his 2001 season in Oakland and would rather not go back there. The Blue Jays and Rays reportedly have expressed interest, although the dollars probably would be less than Oakland's package. The Braves, who train close to his home, have indicated a willingness to pay him about $3 million.

Damon told Francesa that at the outset of free agency, he informed agent Scott Boras that he wanted a two-year contract for $22 million. In media interviews, however, Damon and Boras both hinted that the price tag would be higher, particularly in years.

Cashman has said he was informed by Boras, as well as friends of Damon, not to make an offer for less than the $13 million per season Damon earned from 2006-09. The one offer the Yankees made to Damon was for two years and $14 million. Damon countered with two years and $20 million, which the Yankees turned down.

Damon said he holds no hard feelings toward the Yankees, although some seeped out.

"Hopefully, this doesn't happen with Derek next year," Damon said, referring to Derek Jeter's impending free agency. "I say there's no way he can go anywhere else. I hope he is not offered a 45-percent pay cut."

Damon said he spoke extensively with Yankees officials last week but that there was no deal to be made. The Yankees floated a one-year, $6-million deal, with $3 million deferred; if Damon had expressed interest, Cashman would've had to ask Hal Steinbrenner for permission, but Damon never responded to it.

The Yankees stuck to their assertion that they wouldn't spend more than $2 million on a final outfielder, and Winn accepted it.

"I realize that New York City is the best place in the world," Damon said. "The Yankee franchise is run the right way. The fans were great. The 'Roll Call' . . . They definitely do the coolest salutes. Winning a world championship, that's something that we'll always have."

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