2/20/2008 02:56:00 PM

Johnny Almost Retired

Posted by Mark McCray |

We kind of knew this last year but I wanted to get the part about Girardi on the Blog.

SI.Com's Jon Heyman has the story:
When Johnny Damon walked out of spring training early last year, he thought he was walking away from the game, SI.com has learned. The Yankees explained Damon's absence early last spring as "personal reasons,'' and there was a lot of wrong speculation about something or other happening with Damon's family that would necessitate the time off.

"I was just exhausted .... burnt out,'' Damon explained to SI.com Tuesday. "It (retirement) definitely crossed my mind.''

After a few days, Damon decided to return. "I knew these guys needed me,'' Damon said with a smile. How true that was.

New manager Joe Girardi, who had a special sitdown meeting with Damon at the GM meetings in Orlando in November, was well aware Damon nearly retired last spring. Girardi told Damon how vital he is to the team's success, and that seems to have helped rejuvenate the Yankees' leadoff hitter. "Johnny sets the tone,'' Girardi said. "And he's a great presence in the clubhouse.''

That definitely seems to be the case now that Damon is back to being himself. However, he knows he won't last forever, and that when the time comes to walk away, he can deal with it. "I'm OK with looking in the mirror and knowing when it's time to go,'' Damon said.

The Yankees are very glad Damon isn't ready to do that just yet.


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