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At plate, Cameron tears it up

He’d been aching for his first RBIs

Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron wasn’t full of hot air when he said his big offensive day made him feel a lot better. Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron wasn’t full of hot air when he said his big offensive day made him feel a lot better. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 31, 2010

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That Mike Cameron was able to play center field for the third day in a row yesterday, in a day game after a night game, was accomplishment enough as he continues to recover from the lower abdominal tear that put him on the disabled list for five weeks.

The two doubles and his first two RBIs of the season added to his satisfaction as the Red Sox beat the Kansas City Royals, 8-1.

“It’s a good thing we have an offday [today],’’ said Cameron, who had several bags of ice strapped to his midsection as he spoke to reporters. “That’ll be good for me.’’

At 37, Cameron was going to need occasional days off, anyway. The injury now makes time off a necessity as it affects how Cameron runs, throws, and swings the bat.

What isn’t known is how much time off will be needed. Cameron is checked daily and has promised to be honest with the Sox about how he feels. That he was able to play three days in a row was a positive sign.

“Today was a big day for Cam,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “I thought his body bounced back real well. I think it was obvious the way he swung the bat. I bet you he feels good about himself.’’

The two RBIs were what really made his day. Cameron entered the game hitting .250 over 15 games and 44 at-bats, but without a run batted in or a home run.

He drew a walk off Bruce Chen and scored the Sox’ first run in the third inning. Then in the fifth, his double down the left-field line helped set the Sox up for a three-run inning.

The big shot came in the sixth when Cameron drove a double high off the wall in left-center to drive in two runs. He then scored from second on a single by Marco Scutaro.

“Got one of the zeros off the board,’’ Cameron said. “I’m still working on the other one. I’ve been trying for a couple of days and it won’t get up over that wall. It’ll come in the future. If I have good at-bats, those things will come.

“Once that happens, I’ll feel a whole lot better. It’s been a long time since I hit a homer. It’s hard if you try to do it. That wall is very enticing.’’

Cameron is 6 of 17 (.353) in five games since coming off the disabled list. His presence in the lower third of the order could be important for the Sox. And with Jacoby Ellsbury back on the disabled list waiting for his cracked ribs to sufficiently heal, Cameron also will be playing center field on most days.

Once Ellsbury returns, the Red Sox plan to use Cameron in left field to save the wear and tear on his body. But Ellsbury is not expected back soon.

As Ellsbury rests, Cameron is pressing on.

“[Cameron] is a tough kid. That’s never been in question,’’ Francona said. “He’s worked hard at it. I don’t think today’s a day for him to just show up and play. He’s got to get in here and get himself loose. He looked good.’’

Cameron is learning more every day how best to manage his injury, which is likely to require surgery after the season. It gets easier as time goes on.

“It’s not all the way there, but I’m feeling good enough to play baseball,’’ he said. “Hopefully I’ll continue to get better over the course of the year. Obviously with the grinding and pounding, you could break down again. So I have to come in here every day and try and maintain my strength before I even go out on the field.’’

The Red Sox have won seven of their last nine games and have played themselves back into contention. The players dressed quickly after the game, eager to enjoy a little time off with no game today. But Cameron lingered at his locker, relaxing in his chair before making yet another walk to the trainer’s room.

“It was a grind,’’ he said, “but it was well worth it.’’

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

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