Jeers don’t bother this Yankee


BOSTON (AP) – Johnny Damon still flashed his endearing smile. He still showed his sense of humor. And he stood patiently at his Yankees’ locker reliving the boos from his former fans.

One day after being jeered on every at-bat during his return to Fenway Park in the hated pinstripes, the happy-go-lucky Damon took it all in stride.

“You kind of just sit back and smile and say, “Whatever you want to do, you’re not going to break me or my character,”‘ Damon said Tuesday night before the second and final game of the series was postponed by rain. “I’m very happy with the person that I am, the way I play this game.”

Boston fans cheered his effort and passion the past four seasons when he played center field for the Red Sox but turned against him Monday night in his old team’s 7-3 win. They were ready again on Tuesday before the game was called.

It will be made up on Aug. 18, at 1:05 p.m. as part of a split-admission doubleheader. Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Josh Beckett, who was scheduled to start on Tuesday, will pitch tonight against the Toronto Blue Jays, followed in the rotation by Matt Clement, Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield.

Lenny DiNardo, who had been scheduled to pitch Thursday, will be pushed back to Sunday.

Yankees manager Joe Torre said scheduled starter Shawn Chacon will pitch Saturday, and Jaret Wright will go as scheduled on Wednesday. Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina will pitch on their regular days, Thursday and Friday.

“We don’t want to mess with Randy and Moose,” Torre said.

Damon went 0-for-4 in his first game against Boston since he signed a four-year, $52 million contract with New York last December. He was booed for 30 seconds when he entered the batter’s box to lead off the game, although cheers and applause grew when he tipped his helmet.

“I thought it would be disrespectful to those fans who were cheering me to not salute them,” he said Tuesday.

But the boos returned on each of his remaining three at-bats. That irked Torre, who knew how important Damon had been to Boston’s first World Series title in 86 years in 2004.

“That lacked respect last night,” Torre said in the Yankees dugout as rain fell 90 minutes before the second game of the series was scheduled to start. “Winning and losing had nothing to do with it. I just thought it was time to acknowledge what he’s done here.”

Damon hit .304 with a career-high 20 homers in 2004, the first year he wore shoulder-length hair that enhanced his popularity among Boston fans. Last year, he batted .316 and scored 117 runs, his eighth straight season with more than 100.

But on Monday night he was an enemy in baseball’s biggest rivalry. On Tuesday, he joked about preparing for his reception.

“My teammates know that that stuff’s not going to bother me. It just really doesn’t,” Damon said with a smile. “I had them prepare me before the game. I told them to start calling me every name in the book.”

He did see Boston general manager Theo Epstein in the ballpark after the game

“He was on the phone. He’s always on the phone. So I kind of just stopped him and said, “Hi,”‘ Damon said. “It was good seeing him.”

Epstein praised Damon before Monday’s game and said “I think it would be great if he was recognized by the fans.”

Francona attributed the crowd’s reaction to emotion spawned by the rivalry.

“We all love Johnny,” he said. “I think every player out there would rather be in that situation than having fans who don’t care. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just some very passionate fans having some fun at someone else’s expense.”

Damon said Monday he understood the Red Sox strategy of not wavering from the value it puts on a player and why they didn’t increase their four-year, $40 million offer. He also knew he was one of Boston’s fan favorites.

“There’s not many teams who fail to pursue their most popular player or one of their better players. I know the Yankees would never be like that,” Damon said.

Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis, who had dinner with Damon on Sunday night, called the fans’ reaction “sad.”

That heartened Damon. He also found it strange how wrapped up the fans got in his return.

“These guys are planning their lives around what I do and that’s pretty amazing. Thanks for caring so much,” he said with a laugh. “The thing is, they don’t even care about cheering on their team. All they care about is booing me.”

But, in the end, Damon doesn’t seem to have much trouble leaving the boos behind and focusing on what’s really important.

“It’s just a ballgame and we’re upset we didn’t win. We didn’t hit and I didn’t hit so that was the chief concern,” he said. “All that other stuff, who cares? That goes to show me how much they like me and how much they would rather me be out there for them.”

AP Sports Writer Jimmy Golen contributed to this story.

AP-ES-05-02-06 2029EDT