August 24, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Tom Gage

Johnny Damon torn about whether to face Red Sox fans again

Johnny Damon admits he was scarred by how the fans turned on him when he signed with the Yankees. (John T. Greilick/The Detroit News)

Detroit -- When Johnny Damon's smile is more of a grimace, it's a telltale sign he's in a difficult position.

Getting claimed on waivers did not surprise the Tigers outfielder.

Getting claimed by the Red Sox did.

He thought it would be the Yankees or Rays. He hoped it would be the Yankees or Rays -- if it had to be anyone. And had it been either of those teams, he was ready to go.

The fact it was Red Sox is something entirely different, however. As he said, it got ugly up there in Back Bay after the 2005 season, his last with the Sox.

Was he scarred by how the fans turned on him when he signed with the Yankees? "Absolutely," he said.

The angry Red Sox fans who wore t-shirts that said "looks like Jesus, acts like Judas, throws like Mary" might have had something to do with that.

Plus there's this: Damon has to determine if the Red Sox really want him, or was it merely a block to make sure the Yankees or Rays didn't get him.

If it was a block, it's already worked because you can't be claimed twice. If Damon turns down the deal that would send him to the Red Sox, he will remain with the Tigers the rest of the year.

Then again, that's his stated preference.

Touch decision

Damon, 36, doesn't want to uproot his family for the final six weeks of the season -- but would consider it if A) he decides the Red Sox have a legit shot at the postseason, or B) he could help them reach the postseason, proving his worth as a player to those who may still be doubting it.

I don't think he wants to go.

It's pretty clear he doesn't want to.

And he might not go.

But here's what will tug at Damon in the next two days: When he left the Red Sox, he was vilified: Not for leaving as much as for signing with the hated Yankees. After all, in May of 2005, while still with the Red Sox, Damon said, "There's no way I can go play for the Yankees, but I know they're going to come after me hard."

What happened? He went and played for the Yankees -- but now says he did so when it became apparent re-signing him no longer was a necessity for the Red Sox.

Being caught between the Red Sox and Yankees is baseball's rock and hard place. Yankees who become Red Sox are seldom forgiven. Red Sox who become Yankees become outcasts.

There are exceptions to both rules. However, Damon was not an exception. When the Tigers went to Boston this year, Damon's only trip there, he predicted he'd get booed -- but wasn't able to play in any of the three games because of a stiff back.

Damon's move

What turns his smile into a grimace is the trap he's in. Damon loved the appreciative reaction he got last week from the fans at Yankee Stadium. But if he returns to the Red Sox, does he lose the esteem in which he's held by Yankees fans?

And if he refuses the trade that would send him back to Boston, the fans who wore those t-shirts back when he left might drag them out again -- or at least be angry enough to consider it.

Meanwhile, he was in the starting lineup for the Tigers on Monday night either as a lame-duck designated hitter or as a player staying put.

And that was weird, too.

Considering that all Damon has to do is say "yes" -- and he'll be gone.

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