In Cameron family tradition, Daz robs homer

Detroit Tigers

CLEVELAND — Daz Cameron has been compared to his father his entire career, especially when he plays center field, where Mike Cameron won three Gold Gloves. As the youngster reached over the center-field fence at Progressive Field to bring back an Amed Rosario drive and start an inning-ending double play, it wasn’t hard to see the family resemblance.

“He looked like his dad,” said Miguel Cabrera, who then yelled to the younger Cameron as he sat in his locker, “Send that to your dad.”

Daz Cameron hadn’t done that yet; the Tigers had just finished their 4-2 win to salvage a series split against the Guardians. But he already anticipated the response.

“I’m pretty sure he’s happy,” the 25-year-old said, “but he’s probably like, ‘Hey, you have a long way to go.’ That’s always his thing: Stay humble, keep going.”

This is what the younger Cameron is trying to do as he tries to make his own name in the Majors. It hasn’t been easy, from injuries to a scary bout with COVID-19 two years ago to a search for his identity as a hitter to frequent rides on the Detroit-Toledo shuttle. But as the Tigers look for help amidst a slow start and a rash of injuries, he’s getting his opportunity.

“Daz is a good player,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He was swinging the bat well in Triple-A, and we’re going to get him some more at-bats. He’s going to play again [Monday at Minnesota]. …

“Daz deserves a look. The way he was swinging the bat at the very end of his Triple-A stint, [it] sounds like this is exactly how it was, where he’s hitting the ball hard, he’s hitting the ball on a line. He made a great play in center field, game-changing play. He displayed a lot of the talent that he has. He hasn’t really put it together at this level yet, but he’s certainly exciting in games like that.”

Hinch’s decision to start Cameron on Sunday against Shane Bieber was a bit surprising. Detroit could’ve easily started Derek Hill for run prevention, figuring offense would be at a premium. Cameron had started only once since the Tigers called him up May 16 to fill in for Austin Meadows.

Sunday’s start was a vote of confidence. So was the decision to keep him in center field in the ninth inning to protect a two-run lead rather than bring in Hill as a defensive replacement. Cameron took the boost and ran with it, all the way to the wall.

“He’s always had the talent,” Robbie Grossman said. “It’s just him putting it together. I’m excited to see him do it.”

Though the family comp is natural, Sunday’s catch brought another center-field great to mind. Thirteen years ago this month, Curtis Granderson reached above the same fence to bring back what would’ve been a walkoff homer from Grady Sizemore, preserving a shutout for Justin Verlander. Daz Cameron was just 12 years old at the time; his dad was still an everyday center fielder with the Brewers.

Cameron’s catch was further to right-center, and in the fifth inning rather than the ninth, but it meant just about as much to Alex Faedo in his first Major League victory.

“That was an incredible play,” Faedo said after a postgame celebration that included baby powder, ketchup and clubhouse drinks. “My emotions were up and down as that ball was going, because I could see his mannerisms.”

Though Cameron has spent parts of three seasons in the Majors, Sunday marked just his 56th game, and his 15th start in center. He’d started just two games in this ballpark, both in right field last year. Yet his reaction to Rosario’s drive, down to the timing step at the warning track, looked like that of a veteran.

“I knew the way that it came off his bat, he got it pretty good,” he said. “I made sure that I knew where my surroundings were when I got to the warning track. As soon as the ball started coming down, I realized that it was going to go over the wall, so I took a step to gather myself and go up and catch it.”

Cameron snared it at the top of his glove.

“I caught it and I looked down to see if it was in my glove,” he said. “It was kind of coming out the side. As soon as I opened up [my glove] to throw, the ball kind of rolled down a little bit.”

Said Hinch: “He made it look pretty graceful as an athlete.”

Once Cameron secured it, he had to presence to look in and notice Austin Hedges at second base.

“In my eyes, I thought I saw it hit the wall,” Hedges said. “It was just glove and wall at the same time, and I took a couple extra steps when I thought it hit it. That’s just outstanding play by Daz out there. So I’ve got to just tip my cap.”

Cameron fired to second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who relayed it to Spencer Torkelson at first to double off Hedges. It was Cameron’s first Major League assist.

“That’s two runs,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “That’s a heck of a play. You don’t have to look too far to see whose offspring he is.”

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