Johnny Damon and Jim Thome were critical components in golden runs of Boston and Cleveland in recent times, but you could not tell it from the aggressive, vicious boos when they returned to their old haunts last week.
Damon doffed his helmet and saluted every corner of Fenway Park before his first at-bat with the Yankees Monday amid a mixed response.
“I heard more cheers than jeers at that point, so I was going to do it,’’ said Damon, his contributions to the 2004 World Series title that broke an 86-year drought blurred by his acceptance of a four-year deal with the Yankees this past winter.
When Damon took center field in the last of the first inning, some fans continued to hoot and some threw fake money on the field.
“You’ve just got to laugh it all off,” Damon said. “People around here are born to hate the Yankees. If it was any other team, it wouldn’t be as bad. I’m just trying to move on with my life and make it great.’’
“We (Yankees) should feel proud. He’s wearing a Yankee uniform, and that overrides winning the World Series and playing his tail off. Without Johnny here, they might be working on 89 or 90 years’’ without a title, Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
Chants of “Thome sucks” and “too much money” seemed to catch Thome by surprise Monday, his first game at Jacobs Field since signing a six-year, $83 million free agent deal with Philadelphia in 2003.
Thome, who spent 12 years in the Cleveland organization and was part of six division titles in seven years, was traded to the White Sox in the offseason.
“I never imagined it would feel like that going back home,’’ Thome said. “The vibe in Jacobs Field is nothing like what we had in the ’90s. But you understand the way the business is. At the end of the day, the Indians were the ones that gave me the shot to play in the big leagues. You always appreciate that.’’
Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen described the scene as “brutal,’’ and he gave Thome the next day off.
“You don’t boo a class act. The way he played for them, people should tip their hat and say thank you,’’ Guillen said.
On deck? Closer Billy Wagner, who left Philadelphia for a long-term deal with the Mets in the offseason.
Wagner often complained about the positioning of the Citizens Bank Park bullpens, in easy range of heckling fans.
And if he thought it was bad before. . . .
ARMS ON THE HORIZON
Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels, the Angels’ Jered Weaver and the Dodgers’ Chad Billingsley, three of the top pitching prospects in baseball, may not be long for the minor leagues.
Hamels, a No. 1 pick in 2002, is 2-0 with 26 strikeouts in 16 innings after being promoted to Triple-A entering his start today. He is 14-4 with a 1.43 ERA in a minor league career hampered by injuries.
Since the Phillies have three starters with ERAs over 6.00, there may not be much downside in trying Hamels.
With Bartolo Colon recovering from a shoulder injury, the Angels have debated moving up Weaver to join brother Jeff in the rotation, with Hector Carrasco returning to the bullpen. Colon is expected to miss at least two more weeks.
Weaver, who signed with the Angels the same night Stephen Drew, his road roomie with Camden of the independent Atlantic League, signed with the D-Backs last May, was 2-1 with a 3.72 ERA in Triple-A Salt Lake. He had 38 strikeouts in 29 innings.
Billingsley was 3-0 with a 2.04 ERA in Triple-A Las Vegas while giving up 23 hits in 35 1/3 innings. He has 40 strikeouts, and took a nohitter into the eighth inning of a game against Colorado Springs last week.
“One of two things could happen,’’ Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. “One, an opening could be created. Two, Chad Billingsley could create his own opening.’’
NOT EVERYDAY EDDIE
After failing to convert three consecutive save opportunities, Eddie Guardado was replaced as Seattle’s closer by a committee that is to include J.J. Putz, Rafael Soriano and George Sherrill.
Guardado closed for the last six seasons, two in Seattle and the previous four in Minnesota, and had 36 saves last season, 26 in a row.
The move came after Pablo Ozuna hit his first major league homer in 335 at-bats as the White Sox tied the score in the ninth before winning, 6-5, in 11 innings Wednesday.
Not lucky 13
White Sox right-hander Jose Contreras extended his regular season winning streak to 13 games with a 4-1 victory over Seattle on Thursday. He is 13-0 with a 1.80 ERA in 14 starts since losing to Minnesota on Aug. 15, 2005, and was 3-1 as the White Sox’s No. 1 starter in the postseason.
Baltimore All-Star third baseman Melvin Mora has dropped his asking price from $10 million apiece for four years to three years at $25 million, but talks have stalled because the Orioles have refused to compromise on Mora’s desire to receive a complete no-trade clause in return. Orioles fans can only hope it does not turn into another B.J. Ryan snafu.
Doctor of the long ball
Grand Canyon University alum Tim Salmon received an honorary doctorate in public service at the school’s 54th commencement ceremony Saturday night at Glendale Arena, accepting the award on videotape. He homered earlier in the day for the Angels while making his first start in the outfield since August 2004.
“I don’t think he is a dumb person. He had decisions to make. Whether he wanted to treat people good or bad. Whether he wanted to pump drugs into his body or stay clean. I believe he chose the (former).’’
— Philadelphia pitcher and former D-Backs farmhand Cory Lidle, on Barry Bonds
Boston visits Yankee Stadium for a two-game midweek series. Curt Schilling opposes Mike Mussina on Thursday.