Detroit Tigers' Daz Cameron prioritizing health — not roster spot — after UCL sprain

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Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press
·5 min read
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CLEARWATER, Fla. — Outfielder Daz Cameron pointed to his right elbow as he explained what happened a few months earlier in Puerto Rico.

The Detroit Tigers prospect, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 7 player in the farm system, went south for the offseason to play in the Puerto Rican Winter League for Indios de Mayagüez. While training for his debut, his elbow didn't react per usual.

"I tried to play through it," Cameron said Friday. He went 0-for-7 with four strikeouts and one walk in two games. "That didn't work out. ... I told the manager down there to just give me a couple of days. After a couple of days, my arm still wasn't good."

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The 24-year-old was diagnosed with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in late December and went home to Atlanta for rehabilitation. The UCL is the key ligament used to throw the baseball. A tear results in the dreaded Tommy John surgery, which keeps a player out for approximately 12-15 months.

For now, elbow reconstruction isn't a concern.

"I'm taking it easy," Cameron said. "My arm is fine. Like, it's fine. But it's one of those things, I have to just take it day-by-day and not rush."

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Tigers outfielder Daz Cameron goes through drills during spring training on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021, at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida.
Tigers outfielder Daz Cameron goes through drills during spring training on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021, at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida.

Already on the outside looking in for a major league roster spot this spring, considering the Tigers added two outfielders — Robbie Grossman and Nomar Mazara — this offseason, Cameron isn't placing an emphasis on trying to squeeze onto the team as a fourth or fifth outfielder.

Even at full health, it would be tough for him to join Grossman, Mazara, JaCoby Jones and Victor Reyes on the big-league squad. Also, Rule 5 draft pick Akil Baddoo is vying for a spot, and if he doesn't break camp with the team, the 22-year-old prospect must be offered back to the Minnesota Twins.

Therefore, getting healthy is Cameron's only priority.

"If I'm not healthy, I can't play in the field," said Cameron, who is beginning to compete in spring training games as the designated hitter. "My number one goal is to keep trying to gain some health every day ... so I can prevent some injuries."

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Last year, Cameron hit .193 (11-for-57) in 17 games during his MLB debut campaign. He stuck out 19 times and took just two walks. He served as a right fielder, exclusively, despite plenty of experience in center field in his five years in the minors.

At some point, manager AJ Hinch is confident he will return to the majors — likely as a center fielder.

"His attention to detail with his outfield work has been good," Hinch said. "I think his athleticism is obvious. We've got to get him back in center field when he gets back to playing in the outfield and give him more time out there given his jumps and his speed, and then see if we can develop him as a center fielder.

"Bat speed is there. Strength is coming. We got to get him healthy, get him back to playing multiple positions in the outfield. He's already been a big leaguer. I think he's going to be a big leaguer. We just have to get it all together before we can figure out where he fits."

Detroit Tigers catcher Grayson Greiner takes batting practice  Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, on the Tiger Town practice fields at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida.
Detroit Tigers catcher Grayson Greiner takes batting practice Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, on the Tiger Town practice fields at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida.

Greiner update

Catcher Grayson Greiner suffered a fractured nose March 7 upon being hit in the face with a 94 mph fastball. Hinch said he took part in "full activities" Friday in Lakeland and "did some catching, did some blocking and hit off a curveball machine."

"He looks like he was in a prizefight," Hinch added, "but he's moving around better than his eye looks. He's had no issues."

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Greiner is expected to return to game action Sunday, Monday or Tuesday. The Tigers play in Lakeland for those three contests before going on the road Wednesday.

This spring, Greiner is 3-for-4 with one RBI, four walks and one strikeout in five games. He is competing for the backup job — against Jake Rogers, Dustin Garneau and Eric Haase — behind starting catcher Wilson Ramos.

Zack is back

After being held out for one week because of COVID-19 protocols, infielder Zack Short has returned to camp following his quarantine. He is scheduled to play in Sunday's game as the backup shortstop.

Through five games, Short is 2-for-4 with one double, two walks and two strikeouts.

Pitching schedule

On Sunday, right-hander Spencer Turnbull will start against the Baltimore Orioles, followed by left-hander Matthew Boyd on Monday against the Toronto Blue Jays. Righty Michael Fulmer is tabbed to start Tuesday's contest with the New York Yankees.

The Tigers travel to Clearwater on Wednesday to take on the Philadelphia Phillies. For that game, right-hander Julio Teheran and lefty Tarik Skubal will pitch.

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Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers' AJ Hinch: Daz Cameron can be long-term center fielder