When the Indians brought Johnny Damon to the major leagues on May 1st, it was done without the benefit of having the veteran play any minor league games.
He did play some games in extended spring training, but the pitchers down there are mostly guys who haven’t been assigned to minor league teams, or those rehabbing injuries.
There is no question the quality of pitching would have been better in Columbus or Akron.
However, the terms of the contract Damon agreed to had a clause that he had to be on the big league roster on May 1st, so he was activated.
To date, the results haven’t been positive.
He has played 12 games thus far, and he’s batting .149 with an OPS of 419. Just to clarify, no one survives long in the majors with that low of a figure in that category.
There is no question that Damon hasn’t hit his stride yet, because it is unlikely that a player could lose it this quick. At 37 years old last season, he still batted .261 with a 743 OPS.
Yesterday, Indians’ manager Manny Acta dropped the veteran from the top of the order and had him batting 7th. With his offense struggling, the skipper needed someone getting on base at the top of the order.
He’s not striking out excessively (only six thus far), but he does seem to be popping a lot of balls up, meaning he needs to get on top of the ball better.
Unfortunately, at this point in his career, if Damon doesn’t contribute with the bat, he can’t be in the lineup because defensively, he no longer is average.
His range has been cut down because he is older, and his arm has never been any good. And right now, he’s not making a case that he is the answer to the Tribe’s LF question.
The problem is the Indians are in first place and have a big series against the Tigers, the defending AL Central Division champs next week. So, how long can they wait for Damon to get it going?
The 50 plate appearances he’s received thus far isn’t a large enough sample. Most major league hitters have periods where they go through this type of slump during the season.
For example, right now, Travis Hafner has gone 9 for 46 since the first of May, and Shin-Soo Choo went through a 5 for 31 stretch earlier this season.
Nobody is counting them out as guys needed to have a big year for the Indians to be successful.
Unfortunately for Damon, when you are 38 years old, hitting slumps are magnified. Another problem is that the Tribe isn’t exactly an offensive juggernaut, and they can’t afford to have The Caveman struggling while others in the lineup are doing the same.
In terms of a roster spot, there is no pressure to do anything with Damon until Grady Sizemore is ready to come back to the active roster. As for playing time, the next five games will be a guide for Acta as to whether or not he can play him against Detroit.
It’s probably not fair to a guy who’s been in the big leagues since 1995, but who said baseball is fair.
For a team that needs hitting, the Tribe can’t afford to wait on Johnny Damon much longer.