Thursday, June 08, 2006

One Less Injury to Worry About


NEW YORK -- Johnny Damon wasn't the most willing patient, but he is a happy one.

After Wednesday's X-rays showed that there wasn't any more damage in the broken sesamoid bone under his big toe, Damon said that he hopes he doesn't have to return to the doctor again and that he'll be fine.

The center fielder said he's at about 90 percent and that he only needs to continue taping his toes and putting a pad under his shoe to feel fine. An occasional day off, such as the one caused by Wednesday's rainout, doesn't hurt either, he said.

"I went through that month and a half with it and hurting here and there, some days worse than others," Damon said. "Now we know what to really do to keep it from getting worse."

Although his toe isn't sustaining any more damage, it's not healing either, according to foot specialist Dr. Williams Hamilton, and Damon doesn't feel it will totally heal until season's end. The pain is manageable, and neither discomfort, nor any doctor's words, will stop him from jumping into walls.

"We took the X-ray, but the test I have every day is running out there on the field and pounding on it out there," he said. "It has been great. I know my body better than anyone. So when it feels like it's getting better to me, then I know it is."

Damon said that when the toe hurt more, he had trouble keeping his balance in the batter's box, but he didn't want to start making excuses. The pain hasn't slowed him of late, as he is hitting .368 with two homers in his past 10 games. He has three hits in six at-bats and three walks in this series.

"I thought it was a waste of time today," he said. "I can tell I'm getting better, and I don't want it to be a waste of time anymore."

Damon has had two lingering injuries in the past three years. In 2005, his shoulder bothered him badly for the second half of the season, sapping his power numbers. This year, the foot and toe injury has hampered both his power numbers and on base ability. However, during both years he was able to bat .300/.380/.480 when healthy. With Sheffield and Matsui out for the long haul, some very good batting numbers from Damon are going to be needed to carry this team through a long summer. Despite being injured, Damon has done so with a .301/.370/.456 line.

Maybe a healthy Damon has a little bit more stick in him? You cannot call him an "elite" centerfield with that line, but he certainly gives the Yankees a competitive advantage from thatr position.