Why ‘being myself’ is Daz Cameron’s goal for latest opportunity with Detroit Tigers

Detroit Free Press

Daz Cameron looked a lot like a big leaguer Tuesday afternoon.

He went 3-for-3 with one walk in the Detroit Tigers’ 5-3 win over the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park. He then offered detailed responses to the media after the game, discussing his confidence, low batting average against left-handed pitchers and desire to win.

Overall, the 24-year-old appeared comfortable.

“I’m just going out there with the confidence of being myself,” Cameron said, “and making sure that I execute what my plan is, before I even walk in the batter’s box or when I’m in the outfield trying to make a play out there. I like to keep it simple. I don’t try to put so much pressure on me to the point where I can’t play my game out there. My end goal and my job is to go out there, play my game and be there for my teammates.”

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Cameron is hitting .202 with three home runs, 11 RBIs, seven walks and 26 strikeouts across 27 games this season. Through his 44-game MLB career, he carries a .199 batting average and .252 on-base percentage. These results aren’t what the Tigers expected when they traded Justin Verlander to the Houston Astros in 2017, bringing back Cameron, Franklin Perez and Jake Rogers.

It’s early in Cameron’s development, but the Tigers need to make decisions in the offseason and in spring training. The outfield is crowded, with Cameron, Akil Baddoo, Robbie Grossman, Derek Hill and Victor Reyes. Top prospect Riley Greene — currently with Triple-A Toledo — will compete for a job in the spring, with a real chance of making the 2022 Opening Day roster. (Hungry to win, the Tigers won’t stall for service time reasons.)

The Tigers plan to choose the best four or five players from the mix, pushing perhaps two to start the year in the minors.

“Daz had a really good day,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said after Tuesday’s win. “He played a pretty good outfield, ran down a couple balls. He was able to be active on the bases and had really quality at-bats. It’s a step in the right direction for him.”

Cameron added: “My goal was to go out there and try to help the ballclub, in any possible way that I can, win a game out there. It felt good to jumpstart that in today’s game, and I’m looking forward to the rest of it.”

Sending most of the season in Toledo, Cameron was called up to the big leagues again Sept. 19 after Derek Hill landed on the injured list with a right knee sprain. The door opened to give Cameron another opportunity, albeit with 13 games remaining in the season.

The Tigers also called up Isaac Paredes, another ex-prospect without much to show in his 50-game MLB career. The 22-year-old infielder has played just 16 games in the majors this season, hitting .227 with one home run, four RBIs, eight walks and six strikeouts. (He hit .265 with 11 homers and 10 doubles with Toledo.)

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“I just want them to play and play well when they get the opportunity,” Hinch said. “The evaluation period is not about the last two weeks. … We’re not going make any conclusions anytime soon. They are a part of what we’re building.

“They want to make an impression and we want them to play well, but hopefully they don’t put so much emphasis on these last 12-13 days that they vapor-lock and try to do too much. It’s key to just relax, play your game and let the evaluations happen when they need to.”

On Tuesday, Hinch started Cameron against White Sox left-hander Dallas Keuchel. Entering the game, he had hit .091 (3-for-33) with one walk and 12 strikeouts against lefties. (After his three-hit performance, he has a .167 batting average vs. left-handers.)

He singled to center field off Keuchel in the second, fourth and fifth innings. He scored in the fourth on an RBI single by Baddoo, tying the game at two runs, but was stranded the other two times he reached from a hit.

“That’s just how the season has gone this year,” Cameron said about his numbers against left-handed pitchers. “When I get out there, I try to make sure that I’m giving my best out there. I obviously have less than 100 ABs here (in 2021), so I work with it from that standpoint of things with it. As far as the progression, if I’m able to go up there an approach of wanting to attack certain misses in the zone and not miss them, then I think those things, with a plan of that sort, will be key.”

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In the seventh, Cameron drew a seven-pitch walk from lefty reliever Jace Fry. He got ahead 3-0, fouled three pitches in a row and then watched ball four miss the strike zone for his free pass. Cameron tried to be aggressive with two outs and Niko Goodrum on second base, but he took the mature route by taking an important walk.

He came around to score on Reyes’ single for a 5-2 lead.

“For me, it’s about going out there and giving the effort in each game that we play for the rest of the year, here (at Comerica Park) and against other teams in different states,” Cameron said. “We got a series after this homestand in Minnesota. The goal is for me to try to help the team in any possible way that I can. Whenever the coach needs me, I’ll be there and be in those positions to help this team win. That’s how I think about it.”

The Tigers now have 10 games remaining. Whatever happens in the next week won’t make or break Cameron’s shot at a big-league role coming out of spring training. He still has a lot to prove and a lot to lose.

But continuing to contribute in wins down the stretch wouldn’t hurt his case.

“We got a good team here, man,” Cameron said. “These guys work hard. We come to the ballpark every day to make sure that we’re continuing to get better. That seems to work out. We’re definitely getting results from it.”

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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