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Transcript from Cameron press conference

12.16.09 at 3:48 pm ET
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Here is the transcript of the Mike Cameron introductory press conference from Wednesday afternoon, at Fenway Park (courtesty the Red Sox‘€™ media relations machine):

1. Theo Epstein opening statement:

We’€™re very excited today to announce the signing of Mike Cameron to a two-year contract. Mike is a big part of our off-season puzzle, a huge addition to the ballclub and this organization.

2. Mike Cameron on joining the Red Sox and where he will play:

I guess I should answer the second question first. That’€™s going to be totally up to Theo and Tito. And why did I choose Boston, because I felt like I played in a pretty large market before and I understand the values and the hard work you have to continue to put in because we’€™re scrutinized sometimes. At the same time, the opportunity to really win a championship. I pretty much have gotten to the end of the road so many times, so close, but with nothing to show for it. With the addition of Lackey and guys that are already here that have already been through it a couple of times I just feel like it’€™s an opportunity for me to come out and compete and try to do some good things. It’€™s on the East Coast, it’€™s close to my home, it’€™s a pretty special moment. I haven’€™t really been this excited about coming somewhere since I first came to the big leagues. This is one of the most historic parks that you get a chance to play in and hopefully I’€™ll put a couple dents in the monster.

3. Cameron on ability to play a Gold Glove caliber center field:

That’€™s definitely something that’€™s a possibility but I think I’€™ve played a Gold Glove caliber center field my whole career, I just don’€™t get a chance to get recognized for it. The numbers speak for themselves. I still feel that I’€™m able to move around pretty good and I played probably one of the better center fields this year that I’€™ve played in a long time. I’€™m not knocking the other years that I’€™ve played because I try to play it well every year and that’€™s just a part of who I am., it’€™s part of trying to go out and do the craft to the best of my ability to help the team defensively and definitely put a sense of calm in the pitchers.

4. Epstein on Boston’€™s interest in Cameron:

Our interest in Mike actually goes back a few years when he was a free agent and signed with the Mets. We had a lot of interest in him and it just didn’€™t work out. We had a lot of conversations at that time and he was part of a couple of potential big trades lined up that just didn’€™t go all the way to the finish line. Mike was someone we anticipated would be a free agent this off-season, so we scouted him a lot during this past year and we had and we echo Mike’€™s statement that he played one of the better centerfields that he ever has this past year. We just think he’€™s been an elite defender his entire career, someone who has been underappreciated from an offensive standpoint because he’€™s always played at big ballparks, pitchers ballparks. And he’€™s been one of the most consistent players in the game if you look. He’€™ll get his 20 to 25 home runs every year, play outstanding defense, sees a lot of pitches at the plate. We just think he’€™s an underrated offensive player, a plus defender, a great guy in the clubhouse. He fits in really well with what we do here. I know a lot of emphasis, a lot of talk, was centered on our offense last year. What’€™s lost in the mix is our run prevention needs to improve as well. We were one of the worst defensive clubs in baseball last year and we think Mike is a very important piece, as well as our second announcement coming up.

5. Francona on where Cameron will play:

I think what we need to do, and I’€™ve already talked to Cam about this, is in the next week or so I need to sit down with Theo, Mike, Jacoby and probably DeMarlo, and figure out what’€™s in our best interest. But I need to talk to everyone. It’€™s been kind of a whirlwind week for everybody, so we’€™ll sit down and try to put the right pieces in the right place. I have some ideas on it, but I want to talk to everybody first.

6. Cameron on joining the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry and being back on the east coast:

It’€™s cool. I think I’€™ve played in some pretty cool rivalries, but this one ‘€¦ I think that it brings back a lot of memories of being in some fights I had with the Cubs and the White Sox and the Subway Series in New York. But obviously this kind of sticks out because this is a divisional rivalry. I’€™m excited about the opportunity to participate and I appreciate it, let alone those games are a playoff-type atmosphere, but every game here is like a playoff atmosphere. I’€™m looking forward to it, and if I had to say it, being a part of this every single day is definitely going to bring some added youth to my spirit. So I’€™m looking forward to the opportunity.

7. Epstein on similarities between this move and the club’€™s mid-season trades in 2004:

Yeah, to a certain extent. That year our infield defense was a little dysfunctional. We made a couple of moves to save time and the effect of that move was to really solidify our defense and our pitching got better and we ended up going on a little run. In this case, I think there are a couple of parts that will allow us to throw a really good team defense out there which will help our pitching staff, help our run prevention. Just to get back to the question about where Mike will play, the key part for us is from day one, we expressed interest shortly after the season to Mike Nicotera, Mike’€™s agent. Mike communicated through Mike Nicotera that he would do whatever was necessary, play any position, to help the club win. Once Mike expressed that attitude, it really got our attention and realized it he could be an important part of the outfield if things fell a certain way. So I think there are a lot of different intriguing possibilities, a lot of set-ups in the outfield. As Tito said, it’€™s important not to rush into the decision, just to take a few weeks and let Tito and the staff think about the possibilities. We want to do whatever it takes to win and obviously he’€™s an outstanding centerfielder capable of being on the corners as well.

8. Epstein on what Cameron does offensively:

We have a lot of on-base guys throughout the lineup and Mike’€™s a guy, as I said, he gets his 20 to 25 home runs a year, a very consistent performer. He’€™s a threat out there. He’€™s not somebody that pitchers can take lightly. He’€™s got serious juice. Primarily a pull guy, he fits perfectly into Fenway Park and as he said could put some dents in the wall or over. And he sees a lot of pitches. Mike takes his walks, and I know he strikes out a lot but that doesn’€™t scare us. We have a lot of productive hitters here who have struck out a lot. Strikeouts are OK as long as they come, as they often do, with walks and home runs. And in Mike’€™s case, they certainly do.

9. Cameron on playing at Fenway Park:

The challenges that are here pretty much are in centerfield and right-center more so than anything because of the particular angles. But I’€™ve had the opportunity to play many games here and everywhere else, so trying to compare to some type of comfort level out there in the outfield is nothing new. I just know that wall doesn’€™t move because I ran into it in 2001’€¦I have to be a little bit more careful in that part of the field. At the same time, I’€™ve played on pretty much every field in the Big Leagues, and the ones they haven’€™t made are the ones I probably won’€™t play on. So as far as just playing here and getting the opportunity to go out and play here is something that I’€™ve always done my whole life, so to be a part of something special like this is kind of a youthful experience and going out on this field because once it was a cathedral as they call it on MLB Network. And I have some pretty good people that I’€™ve been a part of, I’€™ve known Tito since I was 17 or 18 years old, so it brings a little bit more comfort.

10. Epstein on how active he’€™ll be improving the team offense:

We’€™ll see. We’€™ll continue to monitor the trade market to see if there are any further improvements we can make to this ballclub. That said, I don’€™t think we’€™ll be in a rush. I don’€™t think we feel a sense of desperation. I think we like the pieces that we have right now. I think generally speaking it’€™s easier to add a bat during the season, so I think our pitching staff is going to be extraordinarily deep, so if we do go into the season with a mix similar to what we have right now, and if the need for a bigger bat does develop, I think that’€™s something we can address during the season. By no means am I saying we’€™re done, but I also don’€™t feel so rushed to go out there and do something dramatic.

11. Cameron on his relationship with Francona:

He was my hitting coach when I was in rookie ball and he always used to tell us that if we can’€™t figure this out now ‘€“ a little bit of it now while you’€™re learning ‘€“ that you’€™ll be one of the prime candidates to be working at 7/11. I always remembered that. But with that being said, I had Tito as a manager when I was in A-ball, so the growth period with him was pretty good. And then I had him as a manager in Double-A, and he was the first guy to tell me that I was going to the Big Leagues, and that was shortly after I had my first kind of incident on the field. And when you play, especially in Double-A, you don’€™t really know if you’€™re a Major League caliber player or not. And the opportunity to have a guy like Tito to be behind this who’€™s had numerous years of Major League experience, and to be able to see it. For him to call me in, after I think we lost the game, the last game, he called me in, I thought I was in trouble, and he told me I was in the Big Leagues, and I almost had a heart attack because I didn’€™t know this was my time to be in the Major Leagues. It was pretty special. You always remember those things. those are things that always kind of store in your memory bank, you remember, and he did always say I was going to play for him, but I never believed it until the opportunity presented itself today. So like I said before, I’€™m excited about the opportunity. I know the challenge is very tough and I just feel like that for me it’€™s kind of hard to lose when you have got a lot of good people behind you. I feel very special and privileged to have that opportunity.

12. Francona on his relationship with Cameron:

He makes me feel a little bit old today. As Mike alluded to, I saw his folks drop him off in Sarasota when he was about two weeks out of high school. I believe, I might be wrong, but they gave him a computer and they made him promise to work on it every night. I’€™ve seen him kind of come full circle. I’€™ve thrown to him more in the cage than is almost humanly possible. I’€™ve seen him go from kind of a raw, very athletic, likable 18-year-old to a guy who’€™s played and had a great career, and we’€™re excited to have him here. What he does in the outfield, what he does at the plate, you can see. What he brings besides that is going to be very well.

13. Cameron on to what he attributes his successful career:

I guess good parents, for one, good genes. Other than the two major injuries that I’€™ve had, I’€™ve been able to maintain a pretty good body. I’€™ve been able to take care of myself pretty good and pretty much just taking care of myself. And then at the same time being knowledgeable of what kind of goes on with your body in the course of a baseball season. Obviously I have a lot of nicks, bumps and bruises and everything. And also part of it, too, is having a real sound mind, a really tough mind about how you have to go about to prepare yourself and then strong and solid self, mentally tough. Like I said ‘€“ five years ago, almost five years ago ‘€“ I almost never got up to play the game and put a Major League uniform on again. So every day I get a chance to play now is definitely a privilege. If I sound a little more excited than I normally am, I really am a little bit nervous because this is a pretty special moment.

14. Cameron on his running game:

I think last year was a bit of an aberration because that was the first time I ever had single-digit stolen bases since I’€™ve been in the Big Leagues. I kind of ran into little bit of a situation where I had to abide by the rules of the manager sometimes, even though I’€™ve been pretty successful, probably 80 percent of the times I ran. And you kind of get into a mode of being aggressive but not probably passive aggressive on the basepaths. But I still can score from first base on a double, I can get two if it rattles around in the corner a little bit. I definitely can get my totals back up into the 20’€™s. It’€™s up to me to make sure I stay aggressive on those edges and you’€™ve got to be able to get on first base to steal a base and that’€™s part of it also. Those things are still a part of my intentions and what I’€™m able to do. And hopefully I’€™ll get a chance to add some of that part of my game to this lineup.

15. Cameron on Boston’€™s chances against the Yankees:

Along with the Yankees and Toronto and Tampa Bay, these guys are also strong, too. We always think of the American League East as the beast of baseball, so to go in here you have to be on top of your game pretty much all the time. Consistency when you match up with other teams is how you win ballgames and it starts with starting pitching. If you talk about the Yankees, they do have some good starters, and I’€™m thrilled to be a part of one of the best rotations in baseball. And we know that when you get starting pitching, no matter what you have on offense if you have a couple threats then you always have a chance, especially if you catch the ball.

16. Cameron on whether he’€™s been in touch with CC Sabathia:

I haven’€™t talked to him much recently, but I’€™m pretty sure he knows, I’€™m pretty sure my phone will be filled up. This got out so quick when I was at my son’€™s basketball game at 5:30 on Monday. But I’€™m sure we’€™ll be in touch and I’€™m looking forward to it. We’€™ve had a few innings in the past when he was in Cleveland and I was in Seattle, and I also faced him when he was in Cleveland and I was on the Mets. I know him just as well as he knows me. It’€™ll be fun to be a part of that, pretty sure, God willing, Opening Day on Sunday.

17. Cameron on any reluctance to play an outfield corner after his injury:

No, I know that the one thing I always have in my bag is a ticket to place centerfield. And being able to add another dimension to that, being able to play a corner, I’€™m not really apprehensive about doing it because they say whatever doesn’€™t kill you makes you stronger. So with that being said, that I have an opportunity to maybe go back and to be a better leftfielder or rightfielder than anybody else because of the ability I have and then obviously I’€™ve been able to obtain playing centerfield. No I’€™m not really afraid of it. I was maybe about my first week when I went back on the field. I went right to centerfield in San Diego. The good lord put me in a special place because that was the place I got hurt and I had to overcome my fears right away. So it was pretty easy for me to make the transition to whatever I need to get done.

18. Epstein on how Cameron’€™s signing affects his negotiations with Jason Bay:

You guys have done a great job of speculating and putting the pieces together this winter on your own, so I’€™ll let you continue to speculate. I don’€™t want to say that the door is potentially closed on any one free agent who is out there, but Jason obviously this year and last year, did an outstanding job for us. That’€™s a trade that we’€™d make again any day of the week. Whichever team does sign him is getting a quality person and a quality player. We feel like we’€™re getting a quality player and a quality person here today ourselves.

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