BOSTON (AP) — Mike Cameron remembers some advice Terry Francona passed on as a hitting coach when the outfielder was in a rookie league.
"He always used to tell us that if you can’t figure this out now, a little bit of it now, while you’re learning," Cameron said Wednesday, "then you will be one of the prime candidates to be working at 7-11."
Now, nearly 20 years later, Cameron will be entering his 15th major league season and his first playing for Francona, his new manager with the Boston Red Sox.
The three-time Gold Glove winner who became a free agent after two seasons in Milwaukee finalized a $15.5 million, two-year contract. He gets a $1 million signing bonus and annual salaries of $7.25 million.
"I’ve seen him go from kind of a raw, very athletic, likable 18-year-old to a guy that’s played and had a great career," Francona said.
The addition of Cameron is part of Boston’s offseason emphasis on preventing runs. Another part of the retooling was to add right-hander John Lackey, the top pitcher in the free agent market. He completed an agreement on a five-year contract worth $82.5 million.
"Mike is a big part of our offseason puzzle," general manager Theo Epstein said.
Francona said he would take a week or so to consider where Cameron would play. Jacoby Ellsbury was the center fielder last year but he or Cameron could shift to left field as a replacement for free agent Jason Bay, who appears headed elsewhere.
"I don’t want to say that the door is officially closed on any one player out there who’s a free agent," Epstein said, "but Jason, obviously, in his year and a half here did an outstanding job for us."
Cameron batted .250 with 24 homers and 70 RBIs for the Brewers last year and is joining his seventh major league team.
"It’s a pretty special moment because I haven’t really been this excited about coming somewhere since I first came to the big leagues," he said. "This is one of those historical parks that you get a chance to play in and, hopefully, put a couple of dents in the (Green) Monster."
The 36-year-old Cameron has a .250 career batting average with 265 homers and 936 RBIs. But Epstein said he played mostly in large ballparks and should benefit from the short left-field wall in Fenway Park.
"He’s going to hit 25 homers every year," Epstein said. "He’s an underrated offensive player."
Francona managed Cameron in Class A and Double-A.
"He was the first guy to tell me that I was going to the big leagues," Cameron said. "He did tell me one day that I was going to play for him, but I never believed it until the opportunity presented itself today."