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BOSTON (CBS) – For Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Johnny Damon, returning to Fenway Park never gets old.
No matter what uniform he is wearing.
“This place is magical,” Damon said of his stomping grounds from 2002-2005. “This place meant so much to me during my four years here, it was a real pain in the butt during my four years in New York.”
Damon, who switched sides in 2006 after signing with the rival New York Yankees, sees the Red Sox as the team to beat in 2011.
“They actually have a bullseye on them,” he said of his former team. “They’re picked to win the World Series, from everything happening going into the season. They already were rewarded the 2011 world series so you know teams are going to be excited about playing them. To see how they stand and how teams prepare for them. They’re definitely the team to beat.”
The 37-year-old is happy to be with his sixth team. The Rays are off to a very slow start, with just one win in their first nine games, but Damon is confident the young team can turn things around.
“Our pitching’s been pretty good; our offense has been real bad,” he said. “We might have on guy hitting over .250 right now.”
The Rays lost all-star third baseman Evan Longoria to an oblique injury just two games into the season, and Manny Ramirez who abruptly retired Friday rather than serve a 100-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy for the second time in his career.
“Right off the bat we lose three or four guys,” Damon said. “We have a young team. There are a lot of guys trying to press to fill that void. I’m here trying to get them to relax. Knowing that there is a lot of baseball let to play. We’re upset with were we stand right now but this game is tough.”