LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — During the week in Florida, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona separately fielded questions of all sorts. They offered varied answers on some, a sign that the offseason separation may have caused a little lack of communication, some of which they even laughed about.
One item on which they were in sync was that of Mike Cameron. Both were encouraged by his progress and offseason recovery from sports hernia surgery, but both indicated they would need to see what he can offer once spring training rolls around. It was a mild vote of confidence, at best, for Cameron, soon to be 38 and, at the time, still a possibility to start for the Sox in 2011.
The hesitation both men seemingly had on Cameron was rendered an afterthought late Wednesday night, when the club reportedly agreed to a seven-year deal with outfielder Carl Crawford.
Epstein insisted during one of those sessions that he saw Jacoby Ellsbury transitioning back to center field after the failed year in left, but there was some ambiguity if Cameron was still in the mix in left. Now, it's simple: Crawford plays left, Ellsbury is in center and J.D. Drew is in right. That's your entirely left-handed, defensively gifted Red Sox outfield in 2011.
Cameron will now spell Drew on days when tough lefties are on the mound and may do the same from time to time for Ellsbury. He'll be an expensive backup ($7.25 million) but potentially a valuable one who can continue to give Ellsbury guidance in center field, the position that has seen Cameron win three Gold Gloves and perhaps get robbed of a few more. Crawford is among the best defensive left fielders in baseball and the same can be said of Drew in right, particularly at home.
Boston liked its outfield because it had options, movable parts and perhaps some depth with Cameron, Ellsbury, Drew and another piece they figured to add. They now love their outfield because the options and movable parts are limited by the addition of the best outfielder on the market.