After returning Thursday from the injured list, Cameron — partially healed from a right toe sprain — has just over a month to show the organization why he deserves to be a frontrunner in next year’s outfield competition.
But the 24-year-old doesn’t feel overwhelmed with pressure. He believes in his talent and leans on his daily routine.
“For me, it’s just go out there and really give it my all for the team,” Cameron said Friday, standing in the Tigers’ dugout at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. “I’m making sure that I’m coming to the ballpark ready to work and to get better every day. Little things like that will take care of themselves if I’m able to go out there and make sure I give it 100%.”
The Tigers gave Cameron his second opportunity in the big leagues in June, after a 17-game debut stint in 2020. He appeared in 18 games — experiencing one of the most memorable moments of his young career — before landing on the injured list in early July.
He banged his foot into the outfield wall at Globe Life Field in Texas during batting practice.
“It was a little mind-boggling,” Cameron said. “As quick as I could, the main goal was to get here. I focused on that, making sure it was in the right place and at the right time for me to start doing more stuff like running to get active again. Now that I’m here, I’m definitely ready.”
The biggest moment of his career happened June 11 against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park. He entered in the seventh inning as a pinch-hitter for Nomar Mazara. A rain delay in the bottom of the ninth halted the contest for 49 minutes. Once play resumed, Cameron crushed a first-pitch fastball from White Sox closer Liam Hendriks for a tying two-run home run to right-center.
The Tigers lost in extra innings, but Cameron’s first MLB home run validated his presence.
“It gives me confidence in knowing I can play at this level,” Cameron said. “You should always have that confidence. It’s hard to play up here and play the game of baseball if you’re not going out there with the intentions of wanting to be the best player.”
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And then came the toe injury.
He still feels the pain, which comes and goes depending on his on-field activity. He probably won’t fully heal until resting in the offseason, but thinks he is healthy enough to compete through the irritations. Tigers manager AJ Hinch plans to give Cameron “quite a bit” of opportunities to shine in the final weeks.
“We want to get him some more playing time,” Hinch said. “He can really spark us. He’s been swinging the bat pretty well down in Triple-A, and this opened up for him. … Once we know there may be a tick of limitation here or there, or a tick of soreness here or there, we’re going to have to deal with that until the end of the season. It became apparent to us we needed to find a path for him back to the big leagues.”
Cameron is hitting .187 with four doubles, one triple, three home runs, 13 RBIs, seven walks and 42 strikeouts over 37 games in parts of two MLB seasons. This season, he has a .182 batting average, three homers, 10 RBIs, five walks and 23 strikeouts in 20 games.
When spring training opens in February, the Tigers will need to pick at least four outfielders for the Opening Day roster. With Akil Baddoo and Robbie Grossman seemingly locked in, the other two spots could be up for grabs between Cameron, Derek Hill, Victor Reyes and top prospect Riley Greene, along with Willi Castro and Eric Haase taking on utility roles that include outfield work. There’s also a chance the Tigers add a corner outfielder in free agency.
The competition will surely be fierce.
Cameron knows he needs to make improvements.
“Every part of my game should get better,” Cameron said. “That comes from learning the game, learning different situations that the pitchers are in and the pitches they go to. I’m critiquing those things so I have a better understanding and better planning before I go out there and play the game.
“Those are things that you continuously have to learn, and you get better every day from doing those things. They can only make you better. That’s what I got, man.”
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.