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Boston Red Sox prevent Tampa Bay Rays from having chance to pick up Johnny Damon

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Red Sox are having a hard time catching the Rays in the standings. So they may be getting defensive about it.

Amid seemingly solid speculation the Rays had interest in Tigers OF Johnny Damon, the Red Sox made, and were awarded, a waiver claim on Damon and are now waiting to hear if Damon, who has a partial no-trade clause, will approve a return engagement.

Whether he does or doesn't, he now can't end up with the Rays, who, given their offseason interest and need for a bat, seem likely to have also made a claim. So in that respect, the Sox appear to have accomplished their primary goal, which was to keep him from getting to Tampa Bay.

Now the Rays, who went into play Monday with a 5½-game lead over Boston for the AL wild card, hope he doesn't go anywhere.

"If he can't be a Ray, I'd rather he be a Tiger, actually," manager Joe Maddon said. "Or a Red. Cincinnati's fine. Or a Dodger's fine. But not a Red Sox."

Further, Maddon — who praised Damon heavily, calling him "a big-game player" — talked up the benefits of Detroit.

"I think he needs to really, really understand what a great community Detroit is. … If you really sat down — Jim Leyland, a great manager — not that Tito (Boston's Terry Francona)'s not, Tito's wonderful. But there's a lot of good things going on in Detroit. I'm sure he does not want to miss it."

Damon told reporters in Detroit he would "think long and hard" about going back to Boston, where he starred in 2002-05, but recalled what he called an "ugly" situation when it became apparent the Sox didn't want to re-sign him and he ended up with the Yankees. For what it's worth, The Red Sox are among 21 teams on Damon's no-trade list; the Rays and Yankees were among the other eight.

The teams could be in a similar situation later this week when Manny Ramirez — another former Red Sox whom the Rays are likely to have interest in — is expected to be put on waivers by the Dodgers. Ramirez has a full no-trade clause, and it's not known if he would approve a deal to the Rays.

HILL CLIMBING: RHP Wade Davis (shoulder strain) comes off the DL to start tonight, saying he is healthier and wiser than when he last pitched Aug. 5.

"As far as arm strength and delivery, everything is really good," he said. "I feel really strong; it will be just getting in a rhythm and getting going."

Davis said his shoulder feels better after the rest and rehab, and he knows better if he ever feels similar discomfort as he did in his last start, when he showed a noticeable lack of velocity.

"In the first inning, I was throwing a couple 84s up there; it just wasn't going. It wasn't coming out. It was tight," he said. "I knew there was a knot back there."

Davis admitted Monday that he first felt tightness after his previous start but didn't tell anyone because he hoped it would go away. He said now he knows he could have risked serious injury.

"If I would have went out and tried to pitch through it again, there would have been a good chance," he said.

Maddon said Davis will be on an 80- to 90-pitch limit.

To make room for Davis, reliever Mike Ekstrom was sent back to Triple-A Durham. Dale Thayer is likely to follow when Jeff Niemann comes off the DL to start Wednesday.

MEDICAL MATTERS: RHP Grant Balfour (intercostal strain) threw another bullpen session and remains ahead of schedule, with an early September return likely. … OF Gabe Kapler, who had been at home in Southern California, joined the team and said his mildly sprained right ankle felt good. He expects to be back around Sept. 1.

MISCELLANY: Monday's win marked the first time the Rays have won three straight in Anaheim, going back to the last two games of the May series. ... They improved their MLB-best road record to 38-24 and record against lefty starters to 30-13. ... The Rays used the same lineup for a third straight game for the first time this season. … Rocco Baldelli, playing on consecutive days for Triple-A Durham, had two more hits and raised his average to .333.

Boston Red Sox prevent Tampa Bay Rays from having chance to pick up Johnny Damon 08/24/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 24, 2010 3:49am]

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