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Damon expects to play in WBC despite sore shoulder

3/14/2006 - MLB Johnny Damon New York Yankees + more

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Johnny Damon has a sore left shoulder, but the New York Yankees' center fielder is expected to be available Thursday night when the United States plays Mexico in its final second-round game of the World Baseball Classic.

"They're calling it a spring training shoulder," Rob Butcher, the U.S. team's press liaison, said Tuesday. "It's something a lot of players get this time of year. We expect him to be able to play Thursday."

Damon, who signed a $52 million, four-year contract with the Yankees during the offseason, has played in four of the Americans' five games in the inaugural WBC, going 1-for-7. He sat out Monday night's 7-3 loss to South Korea and was a pinch-hitter in Sunday's 4-3 victory over Japan.

His ailment is exactly the kind of issue New York owner George Steinbrenner was referring to when he spoke out against the Classic.

"Nothing to say," Steinbrenner repeated twice Tuesday at Yankees camp in Tampa, Fla., as he hustled toward an elevator on his golf cart. "I've said it all."

Damon told reporters Monday night that he has been instructed not to throw for a few days by U.S. trainers, who consulted with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.

Cashman, however, was returning to Tampa from his grandmother's funeral on Tuesday and indicated he didn't know much yet about the injury.

"I have no information on it. I will focus on that tomorrow," Cashman said through Yankees spokesman Rick Cerrone.

One thing is sure, the Yankees aren't happy about the fact that Damon is hurting while far away from the team at the WBC.

"That's the thing you dread most is the injury," manager Joe Torre said. "It's sort of a helpless feeling."

In Scottsdale, Ariz., Barry Bonds was asked what he would do if U.S. manager Buck Martinez called and asked him to fill in for Damon in the WBC semifinals this weekend.

"I'd have to get a call to answer that question," Bonds said Tuesday after hitting his second homer of the spring against the Texas Rangers. "I can't answer that right now. I welcome any phone call."

The 32-year-old Damon hit .316 with 10 homers, 75 RBI, 117 runs and 18 stolen bases for the Boston Red Sox last season. He was a key performer in Boston's comeback from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees in the 2004 AL Championship Series. The Red Sox went on to sweep St. Louis for their first World Series title in 86 years.