CLEVELAND — Johnny Damon has left the on-deck circle. He's officially with the Indians.
Next stop: The starting lineup — and maybe the 3,000-hit club.
Damon, 38, who spent last season with the Rays, signed a minor-league contract Tuesday, the next step before he joins the major-league club and possibly moves into a permanent spot in leftfield. The sides agreed on a $1.2 million deal last week, when the Indians were off to a sluggish start with a team batting average below .200.
However, GM Chris Antonetti said he had been in talks with Damon and agent Scott Boras long before the Indians opened 1-4. The Indians believe Damon, entering his 17th season and with an impressive resume of postseason experience, can keep them keep climbing in the standings.
"We still think he has some quality baseball in him," Antonetti said.
Last season, Damon batted .261 with 16 homers, 73 RBIs and 19 steals in 150 games as Tampa Bay's DH. It was the 16th consecutive season Damon played at least 140 games, a feat he shares with Hank Aaron, Brooks Robinson and Pete Rose.
Damon, who can earn $1.4 million in performance bonuses based on plate appearances, is excited about joining the Indians, his seventh AL team. He'll be reunited with former teammates Shelley Duncan, Derek Lowe and fellow ex-Ray Casey Kotchman.
"They're a team that's building for the future, but they also have a chance to win now," Damon said. "That's a good thing to have. They locked up a few players and I know they might be working on a few more, possibly. It's that right mix. A team that's as youthful as they are, and adding a guy like Derek Lowe during the offseason, and now adding a guy like me, hopefully we can give them a boost and some experience."
Damon is at the team's training complex in Goodyear, Ariz., getting game ready after not being in a spring camp for the first time since he was picked in the first round by the Royals in 1995. Damon, who needs 277 hits to reach 3,000, will likely spend some time with Triple-A Columbus before joining the Indians.
In other Indians news, All-Star SS Asdrubal Cabrera went on the bereavement list after a family death.
HIT REVERSED: Tigers LF Delmon Young, a former Ray, was charged with an error on a play in Friday's game against the White Sox that was originally ruled a triple for Chicago's Alejandro De Aza. Young spun around nearly 360 degrees as he drifted back for De Aza's deep fly and missed the ball completely.
CUBS: RH reliever Kerry Wood had a cortisone injection in his sore pitching shoulder and is out until at least Friday.
D'BACKS: RF Justin Upton had an MRI exam on his jammed left thumb, and a DL stint is possible.
METS: The team is planning a video tribute to former SS Jose Reyes when his new team, the Marlins, visits Citi Field on April 24. Reyes spent his first nine seasons with New York before signing with Miami in the offseason.
ORIOLES: C Luis Exposito was claimed off waivers from the Red Sox, and former top 3B prospect Josh Bell was designated for assignment.
REDS: INF Miguel Cairo, a regular on the 1998 expansion Rays, went on the 15-day disabled list with an injured hamstring. INF Todd Frazier was called up from Triple-A Louisville.
RED SOX: CF Jacoby Ellsbury, who suffered a subluxation of his right shoulder Friday against the Rays, will not need immediate surgery, manager Bobby Valentine said. He's expected to miss up to two months.
TWINS: RHP Scott Baker had elbow ligament replacement surgery. He originally was to have an operation to repair the flexor pronator tendon in his right elbow, but Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek determined the ulnar collateral ligament needed to be replaced.