PHILADELPHIA — The Red Sox have designated Mike Cameron for assignment and recalled INF Yamaico Navarro.
Theo Epstein just spoke to reporters and said the move was forced when Kevin Youkilis injured his left ankle last night. With Youkilis unavailable, the Sox needed coverage in the infield.
X-rays were negative on Youkilis. But he is day-to-day.
The bigger picture, obviously, is that Cameron did not produce as hoped. The Sox now have 10 days to release, trade or outright Cameron to the minors. A release is likely given that he has $3.6 million remaining on his contract.
“It’s not a move we were looking to make necessarily,” Epstein said. “We were trying to buy as much time as we could [and] trying to strike the right balance, buying guys as much time as we could to let them get untracked a little bit. Mike’s obviously got a great track record. Even last year when he was hurt, he still raked lefthanded pitching and the expectation coming into the year was that he would help us against lefties.”
The Sox thought a platoon of J.D. Drew and Cameron would work. But Cameron, an everyday player throughout his career, could not make the transition.
“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 hit .149 this season with a .477 OPS. The 38-year-old hit .143 against lefties.
Cameron was given a two-year, $15.5 million deal before the 2010 season. He hit .219 with seven homers and 24 RBIs in 81 games. The Sox still owe him $3.6 million.
“I’m sorry it didn’t work out. He’s a great person who has been a great player and we wish him well,” Epstein said.
“I take the hit on this one. 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.
“And this is all speculation, but maybe because of his advanced age, despite the great shape he keeps in, when he had the significant internal injury [last year] and surgery, maybe it made the recovery that much more difficult at his age now. He’s a remarkable athlete and worked his tail off on the rehab. There’s a chance he goes somewhere else it snaps back into form and he makes a huge difference for somebody.”
Navarro, 23, was hitting .258 with five homers and 13 RBIs in 34 game for Pawtucket. He has appeared at six different positions with Pawtucket, including nine games at third base, seven at shortstop, five at second base, eight in right field, three in left field and one in center field.
Navarro made 10 starts with the Red Sox last season, including six at shortstop, two at second base and two at third base, and was 6 for 42 (.143) with 5 RBI.
The Red Sox would be comfortable using Navarro in right field, Epstein said.
“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,” the GM said.
Epstein said the Red Sox would look to trade Cameron. But given the money he is owed, that seems unlikely. Epstein also admitted it was “a remote possibility” Cameron would accept a minor league assignment. They discussed that today.
“We’ll stay in touch and see what happens,” Epstein said.
When the Red Sox were considering Cameron as a free agent, his age was discussed “over and over” according to Epstein.
“There were reasons to still believe in Mike Cameron as an exception,” he said. “The remarkable shape he was in, he’s got a very athletic frame, quick-twitch guy and by all measures played a really good center field the year before in Milwaukee. 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. We’re not going to sugarcoat it. That one didn’t work out.
“I still think very highly of Mike as a player and a person. … It didn’t work out for the Red Sox despite his best efforts.”
As to right field now, Epstein said:
“Right now, it hasn’t worked out. It’s our job to make it work the rest of the year. There’s room for improvement there, we have to make that happen.”