- Gordon Edes, Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Mike Cameron was in San Diego, visiting with a couple of other former big leaguers, Charlie Hayes and Terry Shumpert, when a replay of Jackie Bradley Jr.'s wall-crashing catch Friday night against the Angels popped up on a TV screen.
Cameron turned to his friends and said, "Wow, he reminds me of my dang self.''
But it wasn't just Bradley's highlight-reel catch that made Cameron, a three-time Gold Glover in center field and All-Star during his 17-year career, see a reflection of himself. Cameron also knows how badly Bradley is struggling at the plate: a .213 average and an 0-for-31 slump that had him on the bench for the fourth time in five games Saturday night.
That brought back memories, too. After finishing sixth in AL Rookie of the Year balloting in his first full season with the Chicago White Sox in 1997, Cameron endured a horrendous second season, batting .210 with 101 strikeouts in 396 at-bats.
"Here I was supposed to be the guy who was going to be the White Sox center fielder for the next 10 years, I was struggling and I didn't know why,'' he said. "I had to get extremely hot just to get to .210. That was crazy. It became a mental grind more than anything.''
But Cameron came out of it. The White Sox traded him to Cincinnati for Paul Konerko, but the next season he hit 21 home runs, stole 38 bases and hit .256. Two years after that, after the Reds traded him to the Mariners for Ken Griffey Jr., Cameron was an outfielder, and went on to have a long and productive career.
Cameron believes Bradley will, too.
"I've talked to him a couple of times,'' said Cameron, who dropped by the Boston clubhouse when the Red Sox were in his hometown of Atlanta in May. "I like him. I really like him. I like the way he plays, and the way he can impact the game on both sides of the ball.
"He's going to be a good player, a center fielder for a long time. He's in a real tough market where the tolerance of failure is less, but if anything else, for him to be able to go through the pressure of struggling in Boston that much and come out of it will be something to watch.''
Cameron is watching from afar, but he has a simple explanation for Bradley's struggles at the plate, the worst by any major league center fielder with 300 or more at-bats since Cameron in '98.
"His brain is twisted and screwed up,'' Cameron said. "The speed of the game hasn't slowed up for him, no matter who talks to him. My problem was with the breaking ball. He's missing fastballs. I wasn't missing fastballs.
"That just tells me his mind is wound up and in a tough place right now. But I like what John [Farrell] is doing for the kid, staying with him and instilling confidence and trust in Jackie. And it has had no impact on his defense.''
Jerry Manuel, when he was managing the White Sox, did the same for Cameron, he said Friday, though just like Farrell with Bradley, there were times he had to sit him. But as often as he could, Manuel tried to place Cameron in a position where he could succeed, even if it was as a defensive replacement.
How does Bradley come out of it?
"It means going all the way back to the basics and remembering what he was doing best,'' Cameron said. "That's what I did after that season. I knew what I had to do to be successful, I worked hard every day, and kept taking batting practice 'til I found it.
"He needs to think about putting one good swing on the ball, one good swing per at-bat. He's got to simplify the whole game, because it's not going to stop. Hunt the fastball. Because it's eventually going to come back and click for him.''
Cameron was in San Diego to watch his son, Dazmon Cameron, play in a national high school showcase tournament. Dazmon, who plays for Eagle Landing Christian Academy in Georgia, will be a senior and is considered one of the best prep players in the country. And oh, yes, he plays center field.
Dazmon's dad, who played parts of two injury-filled seasons with the Sox in 2010 and 2011, said he was thinking of driving up the freeway to see his old team. But he had a message for Bradley in case he didn't make it.
"Tell him I'm pulling for him,'' he said. "And hunt the fastball.''
Former All-Star Mike Cameron sees himself in Jackie Bradley Jr., offers praise and advice.