There are several obstacles that need to be overcome before Johnny Damon can call Boston his baseball home again. Count Jason Varitek among those that hopes it happens.
"Johnny's a special player, he's pushing on Hall of Fame-type numbers," Varitek said when asked of the possibility that Damon joins the Red Sox via a waiver-wire trade or a claim. "And you add that with Johnny's great in the clubhouse and he's great on the field and he's one hell of a teammate."
Damon and Varitek were teammates from 2002-05 before Damon moved on to New York. While Damon may not be the same player he was when he patrolled center field and batted leadoff for the Red Sox, Varitek sees the merit in bringing in a veteran presence that knows how to handle the heat of a playoff chase.
"He's an example when he plays," Varitek added. "He plays hurt … so much of it is how he plays the game. He plays the game right and it pushes the energy. He's definitely an exciting player."
Varitek said he remembered Damon's grand slam in Game Seven of the 2004 ALCS and other great moments involving his former and potentially future teammate, but it was the little things that often made the difference.
"The ten to fifteen pitch at-bats, fouling off nasty pitches," Varitek said of the 36-year-old Damon. "Coming up with the big hit. He always seemed to have a knack to do that.
"There was the grand slam in game seven, but all the base hits that led up to that were just as important."
Whether Damon slices through the loopholes that would allow him to become a Red Sox player once again remains to be seen. The Red Sox may have just been doing what they can to block Tampa Bay and New York — two teams in need of a designated hitter — by placing a claim on Damon, and may not have specific designs on what to do if and when the Tigers just let him go to Boston.
But with Mike Cameron's year over and Jacoby Ellsbury's likely headed down the same path, there is no denying that Boston could use more outfield depth. While giving credit to Daniel Nava and Darnell McDonald and all the others who have filled in at those spots, Varitek admitted that another body, especially one with the pedigree such as Damon, can only help.
"Wishful thinking right now," Varitek said.