Cameron, Brewers complete one-year, $7M deal
MILWAUKEE -- Mike Cameron's smile faded, but the three-time Gold Glove winner never dodged talking about his upcoming 25-game suspension.
"The toughest thing about dealing with what I have to go through now is not being able to play," Cameron said. "Hopefully I don't miss a beat when I come back."
Cameron and the Milwaukee Brewers completed a $7 million, one-year contract Monday after reaching an agreement last week pending a physical for the 35-year-old outfielder.
The deal was first reported by ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney on Friday.
Cameron was suspended after testing positive a second time for a banned stimulant. He blamed the positive test on a tainted supplement.
"We did every test we could possibly do to figure out what was going on, but we couldn't come up with the positive, the reason, why I failed the test for the second time," Cameron said. "I've been through a lot since the 25-game suspension. The last thing you want to have your name do is to be smeared with getting suspended, taking drugs, whatever it may be."
He said the worst parts of the ordeal are the perception that he's not clean and the toll it's taken on his family.
"There's a way that people kind of justify what kind of person you are by the situation that you're in," Cameron said. "That was kind of like the last thing you always want to happen when you've always had a very clean and good reputation. Like I said, I've got to pay for it."
General manager Doug Melvin said Cameron will be allowed to play in all the exhibition games before being assigned to Triple-A Nashville toward the end of the suspension.
Melvin said it only took about a week and a half to sign Cameron after starting negotiations and that the Brewers are set to go to spring training next month.
"I've always liked the way he plays," Melvin said. "I don't anticipate a lot [else] going on. This was possibly our final big piece."
Melvin had primarily focused on bolstering the bullpen, signing relievers Eric Gagne and David Riske and adding Salomon Torres and Guillermo Mota through trades. Melvin also signed catcher Jason Kendall.
Adding Cameron means the Brewers will have a heavy right-handed lineup and new defensive alignment with NL Rookie of the Year Ryan Braun moving from third base to left field and center fielder Bill Hall moving back to third base.
"I definitely feel I'll be able to help Ryan Braun a little bit from my experiences in moving in the outfield," Cameron said. "The core is solid here, I'm just hoping I can come in and contribute and do some of the things I do well over the course of a baseball season."
Milwaukee, which had its postseason hopes dashed in the final week of the season, had a void in the outfield since longtime Brewer Geoff Jenkins left for a $13 million, two-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Brewers also didn't offer a contract to Kevin Mench, who became a free agent.
Cameron acknowledged he struggled last season with the Padres, hitting .242 with 21 home runs and 78 RBIs. Cameron also struck out 160 times.
"I had a really bad up and down year this year as far as trying to figure myself out and get it together," Cameron said.
His last trip to Milwaukee wasn't a pleasant one, either. Cameron was injured and sick, needing IVs as San Diego failed to clinch the NL wild-card spot in its final two games in Milwaukee. The Padres went on to lose a one-game playoff in Colorado.
All that aside, Brewers manager Ned Yost said Cameron's experience and attitude would play big roles in his clubhouse.
"I could not find one person coming back from his high school coach up to players that have played with him that would even say he's a good guy, a great guy was the worst I could get out of anybody," Yost said. "Our young guys took a huge step last year, and to have a guy like Mike come in and join forces with them is going to be tremendous."
Cameron also already has a fan club in former major league umpire Bruce Froemming, who retired at the end of last season to his home in suburban Milwaukee. Froemming called Melvin on Monday morning to talk about the Brewers' newest acquisition.
"He said, 'Hey Doug, I like that center fielder you got, he's a great kid, I really like the way he plays the game,'" Melvin said.
Cameron gets a $1.25 million signing bonus and $5 million next season. Milwaukee has a $10 million option for 2009, with a $750,000 buyout. The suspension will cost him nearly $800,000 in salary, assuming postponements don't extend the ban.
Cameron can earn $750,000 annually in performance bonuses and would get the full amount for 475 plate appearances next year and 575 in 2009. He also receives a limited no-trade clause.
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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