LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) — Johnny Damon played against the New York Yankees for the first time since leaving after four seasons to sign as a free agent with the Detroit Tigers.
Damon had two hits, including a homer, and two RBIs in Saturday's 6-2 split-squad win.
The veteran outfielder is thrilled with his new surroundings.
"It feels great," he said. "Unfortunately, things didn't work out with me and the Yankees, but I couldn't have landed in a better place. I think I've been fitting in well, and I think we have a good chance here, so I'm just excited about the opportunity. Only time will tell what people are going to think about the 2010 Tigers."
A packed house saw Ryan Raburn lead a 10-hit attack for Detroit, going 4 for 4 with two doubles. He doubled in Clete Thomas to open the scoring in the bottom of the second, when the Tigers batted around. With the bases loaded and two out, Yankees starter Chad Gaudin (0-2) hit Brandon Inge with a pitch, and Damon singled to make it 3-0.
Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter each had two hits and scored a run for New York. Alex Rodriguez finished 1 for 3 with an RBI.
"It was fun facing him," Gaudin said of Damon, who homered off Sergio Mitre to spark a three-run fifth. "He's a great hitter, a great player and a great guy. It's good to see that he's happy and he's enjoying it."
As a 15-year-veteran, Damon especially enjoys sharing his baseball savvy with young players.
"I feel like I can make a difference and help the young kids grow, too," he said, citing Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore as examples.
"Those guys can play already," Damon said. "It's just how to overcome those slumps when they do have them, how to not hang your head when you're 0 for 3 in the ninth inning, when we really need you. I think that's something I can help with."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland is certain of that.
"Anytime you get somebody that's done it, and has done it consistently, whatever they offer to a young player, you can't put a price on it," Leyland said. "It's absolutely tremendous."
Dontrelle Willis (1-0) continued his strong start for the Tigers. The left-hander allowed one run in three innings to earn the victory in his first spring start and third appearance overall.
He pitched two scoreless innings in each of his two relief outings, allowing only one hit.
"I was able to make some good pitches to some good hitters out there and get some ground balls and trust the defense, so I'm really happy," Willis said.
No one in the room was happier than Damon.
"I think my track record shows that I fit into clubhouses well," he said. "I think I mix and match well. I can teach guys stuff. It's great to be in this position that I am and to be able to pick and choose my team, pretty much. I really felt real good about this place."
Notes: Inge played for the first time since undergoing surgery to repair tendons in both knees in November. ... Jeter returned after a bout with food poisoning Thursday. ... Yankees backup catcher Francisco Cervelli played for the first time since sustaining a concussion March 6, when he was hit by a 94 mph pitch. He went 2 for 3 wearing an oversized protective helmet. ... Tigers RHP Rick Porcello will start opposite Rays RHP Jeff Niemann on Sunday. Yankees LHP C.C. Sabathia will oppose Pirates RHP Charlie Morton.