Francona speaks highly of Damon

Francona speaks highly of Damon

Francona speaks highly of Damon
ST. PETERSBURG -- Carl Crawford has received all of the attention in his return to Tropicana Field, but Johnny Damon is also lining up against a former team.

Damon was a part of the Boston organization for four seasons and was coached by current Red Sox manager Terry Francona for two years. Now with the Rays, the 37-year-old still looks sharp in the eyes of his former manager.

"[Damon] is in great shape," Francona said. "It's not just luck. I mean, I know he's blessed with a good body. But you have to do stuff. And he probably downplays it, but you have to get after it to keep being successful with that much mileage. He gets banged around pretty good."

In his four seasons with Boston, Damon accumulated 730 of his 2,643 career hits and 98 of his 392 career stolen bases. The outfielder also won a World Series with the organization in 2004.

But with the end of Damon's career looming, many have questioned if those numbers are good enough for the Hall of Fame. He entered Thursday's game needing 357 more hits to reach 3,000.

"Regardless of whether he is [a Hall of Famer] or not, I guess I hope he is because I love him," Francona said. "It's hard not to like him when he's on your team. He's a consummate [pro]. There were days he was so beat up and he'd call me in the morning and say, 'Don't not play me.' He said, 'I'll figure this out.' Then he'd go out there and find a way to help you win."