Cameron, Ellsbury swap outfield positions
Francona reverses course as duo recovers from injuries
ST. PETERSBURG -- As Mike Cameron got back into the mix for the Red Sox on Tuesday night, playing his first game since April 18, he was in center field, the position he has played for most of his career. However, that is not going to be a regular occurrence, at least for the foreseeable future.
Jacoby Ellsbury will be Boston's primary center fielder for the time being, but he experienced soreness in his left side before Tuesday's game, even though he was originally supposed to be out of the lineup to rest. Cameron will move to left, a position he has played only three times in his Major League career. Conceivably, Cameron could also see some action in right -- a position he played full-time for the Mets in 2005 -- when J.D. Drew gets a breather.
When the Red Sox signed Cameron in December, they made the evaluation that the team would be best off if he stayed in center and Ellsbury moved to left. Why the switch now?
The injury Cameron is coming back from -- a lower abdominal strain -- is a delicate one and he is probably going to get his share of days off. Playing the corner spots also might take less of a toll on him.
"It doesn't matter to me," Cameron said. "I don't think I have a problem with anything like that. Whatever they decide to do. I feel pretty good now. We'll see. I can't really be concerned with that. I'm just trying to get a chance to get out here and run around, and try to play the game the best I can possibly play it. If that's the case then, that's what it is."
Manager Terry Francona thinks that Ellsbury staying in center will give his team the most cohesion for the time being.
"The good news is they can both play," said Francona. "I think that's probably the right thing to do -- when I say at least for the moment, in the near future, and I've talked to both of them about it, and they've actually both been pretty good about it. They've both said, 'Whatever you need, we'll do.' I just know that we can't play Cam every day yet. Hopefully we'll get to a point with that.
"But we need to be aware of what he's gone through and keeping him going forward. But we'll keep an eye on him a little bit. But because we have [Jeremy] Hermida, it's kind of a natural back and forth [with Cameron], so it should work OK. [I'm] just trying to have less movement. I don't know that I really have the right answer. You try to do the best you can."
Ellsbury was Boston's starting center fielder the past two seasons before making the switch to left this year. That stint didn't last long, as he cracked four of his left ribs in a collision with Adrian Beltre in just the sixth game of the season. When Ellsbury was activated on Saturday, he played center and stayed there for his first three games back on the roster.
"[This is] kind of the same thing as it was when I went to left. Whatever helps the team," said Ellsbury. "They told me that I'd be in center, so I don't know what that means, but I'm assuming, yeah, that I'll play center pretty much for the duration of the year."
Cameron got his feet wet in left during one of the games on his Minor League rehab assignment. When he gets back to Fenway, he will have to learn the nuances of the Green Monster.
When Cameron signed with the Red Sox, he told the club he was open to playing the corner spots.
"It's just an adjustment period. If that's the case, that's what we'll go with," Cameron said. "It's not something I should be concerned with. The only adjustment is I haven't had much Major League experience there and you've got the home-field thing there [at Fenway]."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.