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Red Sox Notebook

Damon’s got ear to ground

He believes he’ll hear boos tonight

Jason Varitek chases down a third-inning pitch that got away, preventing runners on first and second from moving up. Jason Varitek chases down a third-inning pitch that got away, preventing runners on first and second from moving up. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / April 11, 2011

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Johnny Damon hasn’t played at Fenway Park since Aug. 23, 2009, when he was with the Yankees. He returns tonight with the Rays and is fully expecting to get booed again.

“I guess whenever you put on the Yankees uniform they get upset about it,’’ Damon told reporters in Chicago yesterday. “I get booed. They absolutely despise me. I just have to say, ‘You’re welcome for ’04. You’re welcome for making it fun again over there.’ ’’

Damon is 4 for 32 (.125) with a home run and two RBIs for the Rays, who are 1-8.

Damon spent last season with the Tigers, but did not play in a three-game series at Fenway that started July 30 because of injury.

The Sox put in a waiver claim on Damon in late August, but he refused to waive his no-trade rights to come to Boston.

In an interview during spring training, Damon explained that he felt a sense of loyalty to the young Detroit players and that he felt the Sox had fallen out of contention.

Damon played for the Sox from 2002-05. He is best remembered as one of the driving forces of the 2004 team that won the World Series for the first time since 1918.

Damon hit two home runs and drove in six runs in the team’s 10-3 victory against the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS.

Damon became a free agent after the 2005 season and signed a four-year, $52 million deal with the Yankees. Despite his having turned down a lower offer from the Sox, Damon has been booed ever since when playing at Fenway.

“Boston’s always going to be a special place for me,’’ Damon said. “What we were able to accomplish there and everything was all great. I’m going back there with a new team, a team I really wanted to be with. That’s about it. Hopefully we can go and beat them.’’

No mutual interest Another hero of 2004, Pedro Martinez, is interested in returning to the Red Sox. But the feeling is not yet mutual.

Martinez has not played since Game 6 of the 2009 World Series when he was with the Phillies. But in an interview with the New York Times, Martinez said he would choose to play in Boston if all else were equal.

“I would like to win a World Series in the National League, so the Phillies are in there, too,’’ he said. “But for the time I’m going to be playing, I think Boston is more suitable so that I can retire with the Boston Red Sox and go to the Hall of Fame with the same hat.’’

A team source said the Sox have had no contact with Martinez and do not expect to add him to the roster.

Martinez is preparing himself for a possible comeback.

“I’m in shape right now and I’m training and I’m playing catch, so getting to full strength would probably take me a month, month and a half, to be on a mound,’’ he said.

Seeing old friends Left fielder Carl Crawford will play against his old team, the Rays, for the first time tonight. But he’s not placing too much emphasis on it after facing Tampa Bay in several spring training games.

“I got that stuff out of the way in spring training. It’s just a game and a game we need to win,’’ he said. “It’ll be good to see those guys, but it’s not going to be anything beyond that. I’m used to it now.’’

Crawford has bigger problems. He was 0 for 5 in last night’s 4-0 victory over the Yankees and is 5 of 38 (.132) this season with one RBI and two runs scored. He did, however, hit the ball hard four times last night.

“He’s right there,’’ teammate Adrian Gonzalez said. “It’s going to start happening for him. He could have had three hits tonight.’’

Gonzalez OK Gonzalez, who was struck on the left hand by a CC Sabathia fastball in the fifth inning, stayed in the game. He had ice on his hand after the game but no X-rays were taken and he said he was fine.

“I don’t think it’s broken or anything. I was able to swing the bat. I’m going to be fine,’’ he said. “There isn’t any pain, other than a little bit of tingling or numbness.’’

Left hanging The Red Sox left 32 runners on base (18 in scoring position) in the series, going 10 for 41 with runners in scoring position . . . At 2 hours 58 minutes, last night’s game was the shortest between the Sox and Yankees at Fenway Park since April 12, 2008 . . . Josh Beckett was the first Sox pitcher to go at least eight scoreless innings with 10 or more strikeouts while limiting the opposition to two hits or fewer since Martinez beat the Rays July 25, 2002 . . . Anthony Ranaudo, a supplemental first-round draft pick last June, pitched in his first professional game Saturday night. He threw five scoreless innings for Single A Greenville against Augusta, allowing three hits with one walk and four strikeouts . . . Bridget Johnson, the daughter of first base coach Ron Johnson, threw out the first pitch. The 11-year-old lost her left leg in an accident last summer when her horse was struck by a car. She is moving well on a prosthetic left leg. Kevin Youkilis, who bought her a new horse, caught the pitch as players from both teams applauded. Ron Johnson did not know until the last second that Bridget would throw out the first pitch. “For our team, that was really something,’’ Manager Terry Francona said. “That was a nice moment for everybody.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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