02/22/10 5:26 PM EST
Beltre, Cameron get first taste of 'Nation'
After first day in camp, Sox newcomers excited for season
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
It was the first day of work with a new team for two well-established veterans who got to choose where to play this season, and both pounced on the opportunity to come to the Red Sox.
They've combined to play 3,510 games in the Majors and they both have two Gold Gloves in their trophy cases, but neither has a World Series ring. Hence, their enthusiasm about the new landing spot.
"I'm pretty excited," said Beltre, who previously played for the Dodgers and Mariners. "It's the first time I've put the uniform on and I'm excited to be part of the Boston Red Sox and hopefully, it will be a good season."
The A's offered Beltre three guaranteed years, compared to one from the Red Sox, but the third baseman did not look at it as a tough decision.
"It was a decision that sometimes a player has to make," said Beltre, who hopes to have an offensive revival while playing half of his games at Fenway instead of spacious Safeco Field. "Thank God that I'm financially good [and] set, and could come to a team that has high expectations and has a chance to win the World Series. It's something that, professionally, I haven't been in that situation a lot.
"I've been with teams that have been good, but not good enough to get in the playoffs. It's something that I consider myself maybe taking a little risk coming here, but [it's about] putting a ring on my finger."
After five seasons of missing the postseason in Seattle, Beltre ironically departed from the Mariners just as they might be ready to start winning again. But he has no regrets about that either.
"It wasn't that easy," Beltre said of leaving Seattle. "You spend five years in an organization, it's not that easy to part ways, but I left a lot of great guys and I think we have a lot of great people that I got to know over there -- players and coaches. It's hard to say goodbye. But you know, I don't think, on paper, they have the great team that we do. I think, on paper, my chances here are better than over there. Here is where I want to be."
Cameron, who has played for the White Sox, Reds, Mariners, Mets, Padres and Brewers, got as far as the League Championship Series twice. But he hasn't gotten out of the Division Series round since 2001. He is now 37, and knows he won't have all that many more opportunities.
"When I thought about that -- having the opportunity to play in Boston pretty much at the end of my career, on a very good team, one of the teams with the opportunity to win the championship before the season begins, I had to take that really into consideration," said Cameron, who is signed for two years. "What more than to play for a really good baseball team and to have a chance to win the championship? That doesn't really happen for a lot of guys going into the season, saying that realistically as you look at it."
The only semi-challenging part of the day for Cameron was getting to work. He mistakenly drove to City of Palms Park, where the Red Sox play their exhibition games, instead of the Minor League complex, where the first couple of weeks of workouts take place.
"I went to the park and there was nobody there so I got a little nervous," said Cameron. "They told me to go down to the end. You always look for the lights [of the stadium]. The guy told me to come down to the end of Edison. It was cool."
Shortly after his arrival, Cameron got in his uniform (No. 23 on the back) and found his familiar spot in center field. He was willing to be flexible if the Red Sox wanted him to move to left field this season, but the club instead moved Jacoby Ellsbury out of center.
It is rare that a team would play a 37-year-old in center with a young speedster like Ellsbury in the fold. But that speaks of volumes of Cameron's ability, and the way he has stayed in shape throughout the years.
"When you've been playing the game as long as I have, it's just a part of who you are," Cameron said. "You have to condition yourself in a sense to really maintain the God-given ability that you have left as you get older and you play so many games. I just try to preserve myself as best as possible to be ready to play the game."
Cameron needed no introduction to manager Terry Francona, whom he played for in the Minor Leagues.
"He'll do a good job," Francona said. "He's easy. You'll look up a week from now, and it will be like he's been here a long time. That's the kind of guy he is. He's got a smile. ... I guess if I were 37 and could still run like that, I'd be happy too. But he's a always been a good kid. That'll never change."
Francona doesn't have a similar background with Beltre. In fact, he barely knows him at all. But he did enough due diligence to know he'll also be a solid addition to the clubhouse. David Ortiz already thinks so. He gave Beltre a bear hug upon running into him in the morning.
"When you're on the other side, and you see him making those plays that aggravate you ... it'll be good to have him on our team," Francona said. "I'm just looking forward to getting to know him, watching him, and having him be one of us. That's a fun thing to do."
While Cameron and Beltre are both getting acclimated, Ortiz can pretty much tell them they are in for a whole new world.
"I think those guys, they have plenty of experience," Ortiz said. "This is a division -- there's no question -- it's the toughest division in baseball. I don't think they've have been involved in what is going on on this side of the baseball game.
"When I came here, I was just like them, a little blind about what the game [in the American League East] is all about. The chemistry and watching what was going on around here, I just got in the mix. I'm pretty sure they're going to do the same thing. Those are guys with a lot of talent, guys that are going to give us good defense, some good hits. I think it was a really good move by the front office."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.