CLEVELAND -- Johnny Damon has left the on-deck circle. Hes officially with the Cleveland Indians. Next stop: The starting lineup -- and maybe the 3,000-hit club. The 38-year-old outfielder signed a minor league contract on Tuesday, the next step before he joins the major league club and possibly moves into a permanent spot in left field. The sides agreed on a $1.25 million deal last week, when the Indians were off to a sluggish start with a team batting average below .200. However, general manager Chris Antonetti said he had been in talks with Damon and his agent Scott Boras long before the Indians opened 1-4. The Indians believe Damon, entering his 17th season and with an impressive resume of post-season experience, can keep them keep climbing in the standings. "We still think he has some quality baseball in him," Antonetti said. Damon, who can earn another $1.4 million in performance bonuses based on plate appearances, is excited about joining the Indians -- his seventh AL team. Hell be reunited with former teammates Shelley Duncan, Derek Lowe and Casey Kotchman. "Theyre a team thats building for the future, but they also have a chance to win now," Damon said. "Thats a good thing to have. They locked up a few players and I know they might be working on a few more, possibly. Its that right mix. A team thats as youthful as they are, and adding a guy like Derek Lowe during the off-season, and now adding a guy like me, hopefully we can give them a boost and some experience." Damon is at the teams year-round 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 Kansas City in 1995. Damon, who needs 277 hits to reach 3,000 in his career, will likely spend some time with Triple-A Columbus before joining the Indians. Damon thinks he can be ready soon. "I feel like I can be ready in a week," said Damon, who spent Tuesday running, shagging flies and lifting weights. "I kept myself in pretty good shape during the off-season. Thats why I dont think its going to be too long. But, I also understand that when the Cleveland Indians do get me, I need to be in great shape and just be healthy and ready to go." When hes brought up, Damon will likely take over in left field for Duncan, a part-time player in the past who has been starting this season. Duncan was needed in left because the Indians had to implement an outfield shift, moving Michael Brantley over to centre with Grady Sizemore on the disabled list following back surgery. Duncan has delivered. He leads the Indians with a .320 average entering Tuesday nights game in Seattle. Once Sizemore returns, Antonetti said its possible the Indians could carry five outfielders -- Damon, Brantley, Duncan, Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo -- the rest of this season. Damon knows there are no guarantees hell play every day. Hell have to earn playing time and continue to produce to stay in manager Manny Actas lineup. "I understand the game and how guys can get hot and you cant take them out of the lineup," he said on a conference call. "I also understand that I can get hot and it can be tough to get me out of the lineup. Im here for the team. Its not a story about me. Its a story about the Cleveland Indians adding another guy to help them throughout the season. Whatever role its going to be -- a platoon thing or an everyday thing or spell guys when theyre tired, play a little first -- Im up for whatever." A career .286 hitter, Damon also brings the Indians leadership and playoff experience. As Antonetti said, Damon is "universally respected" and can serve as a mentor to some of Clevelands younger players. But the Indians believe his biggest impact will be between the lines despite approaching 40, when most major leaguers have retired. Last season, Damon batted .261 with 29 doubles, seven triples, 16 homers, 73 RBIs and 19 steals in 150 games for the Tampa Bay Rays. It was the 16th consecutive season Damon has played at least 140 games, a feat he shares with only Hank Aaron, Brooks Robinson and Pete Rose. Damon has appeared in 59 post-season games for the Rays, Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. The 3,000-hit milestone is right in front of him, but Damon said it was never a personal goal. Hell retire one day, but hes not planning to stop anytime soon. "Im playing to win," he said. "Im playing for the Tribe fans. Im playing for the Indians organization. Im not really playing for myself. Obviously, I always want to go out there and play well and treat the game with respect, but theres a lot of fans out there that really wanted to see me keep pushing and keep fighting. "I wasnt ready to pack it up. So 3,000 could be on the horizon, but if it comes or not, when I leave this game I want to make sure theres no regrets. As long as I keep doing what I did last year, and hopefully this is a successful year, Im going to keep going." http://www.demarcuswarebroncosjersey.com/
.5 seconds to play in the game, Kevin Love never stopped believing that they would come out of there with a win.HOUSTON -- Dwight Howard was late for the pregame shootaround. So he knew that playing on his 28th birthday, and against his former team, the onus was on him to both atone and deliver. Done and done. Howard had 20 points and 22 rebounds Sunday night to lead the Houston Rockets over the Orlando Magic 98-88. "I just wanted to get the win tonight," Howard said. "Im just happy our team came out tonight, settled down and played basketball." Howard became the first Rockets player since Ralph Sampson in 1985-86 to pull down 18 or more rebounds in three straight games. Despite the positive outcome, dont expect to see Howard showing up late to any more shootarounds anytime soon. "Bad example," he said. "I shouldnt have done it." James Harden scored 27 points and also had 10 assists and eight rebounds for the Rockets. Terrence Jones contributed 16 points and 13 rebounds. Jones scored 10 a busy third quarter when Houston pulled away for good, extending its lead to as many as 22 points. He also blocked five shots, stopping Victor Oladipo as time expired in the third quarter to preserve an 83-61 lead. Chandler Parsons, who missed two games because of a sore back, started for Houston and had 18 points. "Our starting four and five had 35 rebounds between them," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "James went and got eight rebounds, too. So that was big." Glenn Davis scored 18 in Orlandos fifth straight loss. Arron Afflalo finished with 16 points and Jameer Nelson added 15. "We just didnt play well," Davis said. "We cant make shots. Its not about the shots. Its about the defence. Everybody needs to be held accountable in maaking sure they do what they need to do, or its going to be a long season.dddddddddddd" Howard got off to a slow start offensively, but he amassed nine quick rebounds in the first quarter, thanks in part to the Magics 7-for-22 shooting. This was Howards first game against Orlando in a Rockets uniform, having faced his first former team last season while with the Los Angeles Lakers. Orlando made Howard the top pick of the 2004 NBA draft. He played for the Magic from 2005-2012, once led the team to the finals and remains Orlandos all-time leading scorer. The Magic shot just 27.7 per cent (13-for-47) from the field in the first half. But they benefited from at-times lacklustre rebounding the Rockets, which led to second-chance points that allowed them to loiter around. Orlando appeared poised to give the Rockets a tough test, scoring nine straight points to take a 9-2 lead. But the burst was brief. "We just came out sluggish and werent contesting shots, and we werent rebounding," Howard said. "We had to pick our energy level up, and thats what we did." The Rockets hurt the Magic from the 3-point line, making seven of 11 to erase that run by Orlando in the first quarter. Houston finished 10-for-33 from 3-point range against 8-for-29 for Orlando. The Magic cut Houstons lead to 28-25 with a burst of hustle to open the second quarter, capped by a 3 from ETwaun Moore. Thats as close as Orlando got the rest of the way. NOTES: The Magic missed C Nikola Vucevic (left ankle) for a third straight game. ... Rockets G Jeremy Lin (right knee) missed his sixth game but participated in pregame workouts. ... Houston tallied 10 blocks, its fourth double-digit game of the season. ' ' '