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In outfield, Cameron is out

Veteran never became accustomed to platoon

Mike Cameron was hitting just .149 in 33 games this season. Mike Cameron was hitting just .149 in 33 games this season. (File/John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / July 1, 2011

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PHILADELPHIA - Mike Cameron arrived at Citizens Bank Park yesterday morning wearing a suit, the usual attire for a major leaguer on a travel day.

Before Cameron could change into uniform, bench coach DeMarlo Hale approached Cameron’s locker and put a hand on his shoulder. That’s how his tenure with the Red Sox ended.

Cameron was taken to a room, where general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona were waiting to tell him he had been designated for assignment.

The 38-year-old Cameron was hitting .149 with a .477 OPS over 33 games. He had just five extra-base hits and nine RBIs.

“There were some signs of it,’’ Cameron said by telephone after returning to his home in Georgia. “We’ll see what happens. This is a new experience for me but sometimes those are good.’’

In spring training, the Sox thought a platoon of J.D. Drew and Cameron in right field would be productive. But Cameron, an everyday player throughout his career, could not make the transition.

Cameron hit .143 against lefties in 63 at-bats. In recent weeks, he had lost playing time to Darnell McDonald and Josh Reddick.

“It ended up being a tough adjustment for him into a role he wasn’t that familiar with,’’ Epstein said. “We were trying to strike the balance between giving him enough time to get untracked and then also realizing that we might need to try something new to give us a little bit more of a threat against lefthanded pitching.’’

Cameron played just 48 games last season because of a double hernia that required surgery in August. The Red Sox believe that played a role in his decline this season.

“Because of his advanced age, despite the great shape he keeps in, when he had the significant internal injury and surgery, maybe it made the recovery that much more difficult at his age now,’’ Epstein said.

A former All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner, Cameron was widely respected in the clubhouse. He also was close to Francona, his first hitting coach in the minors in 1991, when both were in the White Sox organization.

“Theo did most of the talking and I appreciated the way he spoke to Cam,’’ Francona said. “As a player, I wish somebody would have treated me like that. Because it’s a hard thing to do.’’

Said Jon Lester: “Cam’s a great teammate, a great clubhouse guy. Probably one of the best teammates I’ve ever played with.’’

Cameron hopes to continue his career with another team.

“I need to sort some things out,’’ he said. “But if all goes as planned, I’ll be back playing. I haven’t played much this year. Rest assured, I’ll be back. People think Father Time has got me. But it wasn’t Father Time. It was not getting much of a chance to go out there and run around and play. It was a new experience [in Boston], but it’s all good.’’

Epstein said the Red Sox would look to trade Cameron. But given the $3.6 million he is owed, that seems unlikely. Epstein and Cameron discussed the idea of his taking a minor league assignment, but the GM acknowledged that was “a remote possibility.’’

Cameron was given a two-year, $15.5 million deal before the 2010 season. Overall, he hit .219 with seven homers and 24 RBIs in 81 games for the Sox.

“I take the hit on this one,’’ Epstein said. “We try to be disciplined with trying to look for players in their prime when we bring them in, and sometimes you just can’t do that. Mike was still a productive player when we got him.’’

When the Red Sox were considering Cameron as a free agent, his age was discussed “over and over,’’ according to Epstein.

“We recognized that it was a risk. Given some of the other things going on, it made sense at the time. When it doesn’t work out, you have to stand up and say that it didn’t work out,’’ Epstein said. “We’re not going to sugarcoat it. That one didn’t work out.’’

There could be other changes coming. McDonald was 0 for 3 yesterday while playing left field and is hitting .115.

Navarro arrives The Sox recalled Yamaico Navarro to replace Cameron on the roster. With Kevin Youkilis out with a sore left ankle, the Sox wanted to improve their infield depth.

The 23-year-old Navarro, who did not arrive until the ninth inning, was hitting .258 with five homers and 13 RBIs in 34 games for Pawtucket. An infielder coming up, he has played 11 games in the outfield this season to improve his versatility.

“In an ideal world, we’d have somebody more experienced. But he’s a versatile guy; he can hit lefthanded pitching. He has a chance to help us,’’ Epstein said.

Navarro appeared in 20 games with the Red Sox last season. He was 6 for 42 (.143).

Youkilis banged up Youkilis was out of the lineup, the result of fouling a ball off his left ankle Wednesday night. He stayed in the game, but the injury worsened overnight.

“After I iced, it was throbbing pretty good. I had a tough time sleeping,’’ Youkilis said. “Just walking on it was tough. Hopefully, it’s just a day.’’

X-rays taken before the game were negative. Youkilis also is playing with a sore right ankle.

“I think we feel like he’ll be OK,’’ Epstein said.

Drew Sutton, who celebrated his 28th birthday yesterday, started at third base and was 2 for 4 with a run.

Ortiz to defend title David Ortiz will return to defend his title in the Home Run Derby, this time as captain of the American League team July 11 in Phoenix.

Ortiz and Prince Fielder of the Brewers were selected as captains for the event’s new format. Fielder and Ortiz will determine the other three participants on their teams. All players are eligible, not just All-Stars.

Manager’s milestone The victory was Francona’s 700th with the Red Sox. He joins Tony La Russa (Cardinals), Mike Scioscia (Angels), and Ron Gardenhire (Twins) as the only active managers with as many victories for their current teams . . . Ortiz is hitless in his last 17 at-bats after flying to left field as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning . . . The crowd of 45,810 was the fourth largest since Citizens Bank Park opened in 2004 . . . Lester is the first Red Sox lefthander to win 10 of the team’s first 80 games since Bill Lee in 1975.

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

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