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Braves tie Tigers in split squad action
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KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Johnny Damon seems determined to show that his home run splurge last season wasn't just a product of the new Yankee Stadium's extra cozy right-field porch.

"I don't know of a ballpark in America that would have held the one he hit tonight," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said after Damon unloaded a mammoth homer during the fifth inning of a 4-4 tie against the Atlanta Braves on Friday. The game was called after 10 innings.

Damon pulled a 1-0 pitch from Braves starter Kenshin Kawakami and almost hit the back wall behind right field, well over 400 feet away. The left fielder, who matched his career high with 24 homers last season with the Yankees, also had a single and is hitting .333 this spring.

"Johnny Damon can plain out hit and it doesn't matter where it is," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. "He has a lot of baseball left and he's hungry."

The 36-year-old Damon is 10 for 30 with two doubles, two homers and five RBIs for his new team. He signed an $8 million, one-year deal with the Tigers after the Yankees and other teams didn't offer the long-term contract he was seeking. He made $13 million in New York last season.

"He's got a tailor-made swing to pull the ball and you can't leave the ball inside against him." Jones said. "He showed that again. That ball he hit went a long way."

Kawakami also allowed a long homer by Jeff Larish in the fourth inning, but the only other run against him was unearned. The right-hander from Japan gave up six hits, struck out four and walked none.

"He pitched a good five innings," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He threw some good sinkers."

Jeremy Bonderman, trying to win a spot in the Detroit rotation after missing most of the past two seasons because of an ailing shoulder, worked three innings, throwing 54 pitchers. He allowed two runs, four hits, two walks and hit a batter.

Bonderman gave up RBI doubles to Chipper Jones and Brian McCann in the first but worked out of jams in each of the next two innings thanks to double plays.

"It's still a project, but he did fine," Leyland said. "He's got to learn that he's not just going to blow guys away anymore."

Bonderman's spring ERA is 9.35 mainly because of a rough outing against Toronto in his second appearance. The right-hander allowed six runs while getting just two outs in that game. In eight innings over the other three games, Bonderman has given up three runs and nine hits.

"His stuff is there," Tigers catcher Alex Avila said. "His pitches were moving. He's just still trying to find his command."

Jones was 2 for 2 with a walk, raising his average to .391, while McCann went 2 for 5 and is hitting .478.

"We've got a lot of guys really swinging the bat," Cox said.

The Braves tied the game in the ninth inning on a single by Gregor Blanco, who was 2 for 2. But Atlanta left the bases loaded, forcing the game to an extra inning.

Ryan Raburn, hitting .480, went 3 for 5 with a double for the Tigers. Casper Wells was 2 for 2 and drove in the go-ahead run off Billy Wagner in the seventh inning, but the outfielder was one of four players optioned to the minors by Detroit after the game.

NOTES: Wells was sent to Triple-A Toledo along with OF Brennan Boesch and 1B Ryan Strieby. SS Audy Ciriaco was optioned to Double-A Erie. ... The Tigers lost to the New York Yankees 6-2 in Tampa on Friday in the afternoon part of a split-squad day. ... Derek Lowe, who pitched four hitless inning in his previous start against Washington, is scheduled to pitch for the Braves against Toronto in Dunedin on Saturday. ... Detroit plays Philadelphia in Lakeland on Saturday, with Eddie Bonine scheduled to start.

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