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As Jeter nears 3,000, Damon eyes milestone too

CBSSports.com wire reports
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NEW YORK -- Johnny Damon has his eye on 3,000 hits too.

With former teammate Derek Jeter closing in on the milestone, Damon said he's already started to think about his own chances of reaching the plateau.

Johnny Damon looks to last a couple more years, as the Rays DH is a few hundred hits shy of 3,000. (Getty Images)  
Johnny Damon looks to last a couple more years, as the Rays DH is a few hundred hits shy of 3,000. (Getty Images)  
Tampa Bay's designated hitter went into Saturday's game against Jeter and the New York Yankees with 2,662 career hits. The 37-year-old Damon realizes he probably needs to last at least two seasons beyond this one to get to 3,000, but he said people close to him are encouraging him to play long enough to do it.

"It's something that I never thought about before, but with me climbing up on the charts and all that stuff, I'm hearing from friends and family and former teammates and they're telling me to keep going as long as I can," Damon said.

"Now it's within sight, 350 away. And hopefully after this season it'll be 250 out and it'll be two more years. And hopefully in the meantime we can keep winning and I can keep being productive and help out a young team like this."

Jeter began the day two hits shy of becoming the 28th major leaguer to reach the milestone, and first with the Yankees.

"It'd be a great thing to see," Damon said. "Derek's a class act. He's what a ballplayer should be."

Damon and Jeter are the same age, and both were drafted out of high school in 1992. Damon said that's one reason why Jeter's accomplishments mean so much to him.

The two were teammates in New York from 2006-09, helping the Yankees win the World Series in Damon's final season with the club. He played for Detroit last year, then signed a one-year contract with Tampa Bay in February.

Damon has lost some of his speed, but he's been extremely durable throughout his career and he's still a pest at the plate. He was hitting .279 with nine home runs and 41 RBI in his first season with the Rays.

He thinks 3,000 hits is definitely an attainable goal.

"Oh, no doubt," he said. "Might as well, if it's there."

Damon was back in Tampa Bay's lineup Saturday, batting leadoff in his first game since getting hit on the left hand by a pitch from Minnesota's Francisco Liriano on Wednesday.

His hand was still red and sore, but the swelling had gone down after he applied ice all night. Hours before the game, Damon took swings in the indoor cage at Yankee Stadium to test his hand and planned to take a full round of indoor batting practice.

"The strength isn't quite all there yet," Damon said. "The first couple swings were horrible, but just trying to find a way. ... I want to be in there."

Damon began the day exactly 100 hits behind injured Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez on the career list.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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