Cameron could fit back in center field

Detroit Tigers

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Daz Cameron hears his father preaching patience. Mike Cameron should know; he dealt with plenty of injuries during his 17-year Major League career.

But few could use a healthy break like the Tigers’ prospect. The younger Cameron spent much of Summer Camp being treated in a Detroit hospital for COVID-19, shortening his development time before he made his Major League debut in September. When Cameron reported to winter ball in Puerto Rico to help make up for the work he lost, he played in just two games before a right elbow injury — a sprained ulnar collateral ligament while throwing on a training day — ended that season for him.

The elbow was still an issue when he arrived at Spring Training in February, and it cost him nearly three weeks. Cameron didn’t appear in a game until Friday, and his first Grapefruit League start Saturday was as a designated hitter.

“You just have to keep a still head,” the younger Cameron said his dad told him, “just be more in the mindset of just taking it day by day and not drive yourself crazy about it.”

Cameron could use a break. He might get a fresh look from an old face.

A.J. Hinch remembers Cameron from Astros camp in 2017 before the former first-round Draft pick went to Detroit in the Justin Verlander trade. Hinch has an idea what Cameron can do when he’s healthy, and how Cameron can help Hinch’s new team.

“I don’t know exactly where he’s going to be until we can get him on the field with a little more regularity,” Hinch said Saturday. “I think his attention to detail with his outfield work has been really good. I think his athleticism is obvious.

“I think we have to get him back in center field when he gets back to playing in the outfield, and give him a little bit more time out there given his jumps and his speed, see if we can develop him as a center fielder.”

Cameron has played center field for most of his Minor League career and had good scouting reports, including Spring Training in 2019. He moved to right in Detroit in September 2020 to fill a hole while Victor Reyes played center. Cameron did not have an outfield assist. Now, a corner spot might be a test for his arm, especially coming off injury.

More importantly, Hinch is looking over Cameron’s long-term outfield options, skill set and outfield versatility.

“He’s already been a big leaguer. I think he’s going to be a big leaguer,” Hinch said. “We’ve just got to get it all together before we can figure out where he fits.”

Tork gets first hit
No, it wasn’t a Tork Bomb, but Spencer Torkelson’s eighth-inning single Saturday at least ended his 0-for-Grapefruit-League slump. The Tigers’ top prospect per MLB Pipeline had been 0-for-15 with nine strikeouts this spring before lining a Michael Ynoa slider into left field to lead off the eighth during Detroit’s 9-3 loss to the Phillies.

It’s only Spring Training, but the frustration had been evident from Torkelson, who isn’t vying for a roster spot but wanted to make an impression in his first pro camp. Hinch wanted to make sure Torkelson had a positive feeling from the experience.

The Tigers didn’t save the ball, but Torkelson did get an ovation from the dugout.

“We did poke a little fun at him,” Hinch said. “The dugout erupted.”

Quick hits
Derek Hill nearly made a highlight catch over the center-field fence to rob Bryce Harper of a potential second home run Saturday. Hill missed, but the ball got stuck in padding at the top of the fence for a ground-rule double.

Parker Meadows, who was added to Tigers minicamp earlier this week, made his first game appearance of the spring and was immediately greeted with a drive to deep center field by Andrew McCutchen. Meadows spun himself around chasing it, but he still nearly made a basket catch at the fence with his back to home plate.

• Lefty reliever Ian Krol allowed his first hit of the spring but still tossed a scoreless inning Saturday in his comeback attempt. The former Tiger and current non-roster invite has walked two and struck out six over 4 1/3 innings.

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