Cameron comes full circle at PETCO

Cameron comes full circle at PETCO

SAN DIEGO -- It took a little over eight months, but Padres center fielder Mike Cameron finally came full circle from Aug. 11, 2005.

With two outs in the top of the ninth inning and a man on base Sunday afternoon, Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado lifted a long fly out toward Cameron's way, and the center fielder calmly ran over and made an over-the-shoulder catch to end the Padres' 7-4 win.

"You're always confident when the ball is hit towards his direction. He's so good out there," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said of his center fielder, who went 0-for-3 with two walks in his Padres debut Sunday. "I said it was probably going to take him a few games to really get comfortable at the plate, but he's a pro and he's another guy that plays both sides of the ball so well. I thought he would be a shot in the arm when he came back, and he was today."

Sunday was not only Cameron's debut with San Diego, but his first Major League game since that day in August. In this same ballpark with the same two teams on the field, the center fielder collided with then-Mets teammate Carlos Beltran face-to-face.

Cameron, who played right field for the Mets to accommodate Beltran, took the brunt of the collision, and he needed surgery to repair the multiple fractures in his face.

He was all healed and ready to go in plenty of time for March, when the 33-year-old arrived for Spring Training with a smile on his face, and he left Arizona with a .367 average and a .492 on-base percentage. The Padres, however, had one more stop to make before their regular-season opener on April 3.

Before San Diego's game in Las Vegas against the Cubs -- the second-to-last day before the close of Spring Training -- Cameron strained his oblique during batting practice. He started the season on the disabled list and made two rehab starts for Class A Lake Elsinore on Thursday and Friday, going a combined 2-for-6 with a double, an RBI and a walk.

"It is frustrating because you work to build so much momentum and confidence in having a good spring," Cameron said. "To have to start all over again, that's kind of tough, but you know, it's patience."

On Sunday, the only patience Cameron needed was at the plate. Cameron took his swings in the on-deck circle and stretched the bat high over his head, a good sign for someone who missed the first 17 games of the season due to an oblique strain. He crouched into position on every pitch in the spacious center field at PETCO Park, chasing down pop flies and grounders with ease.

Playing in his first game that counts in over eight months, Cameron did not worry himself with being overly careful as a result of the collision.

"You try to play smart, but there's only one speed in this game," he said.

In the field, Cameron bobbled the ball in the sixth inning when he raised his arm to make a throw home. Maybe not the debut he wanted in his new home park, but he'll take it.

"I was even a little nervous, butterflies," admitted Cameron about his return. "That's a good thing, too. I would've loved to get some hits, get it out of the way. But tomorrow is a new day, try it again, keep doing it."

Amanda Branam is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.