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Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Cameron willing to play in right ... for now

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Mike Cameron is willing to play right field for the New York Mets, he just doesn't sound thrilled about it.

Mike Cameron
Center Field
New York Mets
140 30 76 76 22 .231

"Right now, I'll kind of do what I can to help the team. It's going to be a transition," Cameron, a two-time Gold Glove winner in center, said Tuesday. "That's the plan right now, to see what happens and kind of go with it. I've been going through a lot of mixed emotions."

Cameron was quiet after the Mets signed All-Star center fielder Carlos Beltran to a $119 million, seven-year contract last week, signaling a position switch -- or trade -- for Cameron after only one season in New York.

There was speculation that he was unhappy and had asked to be dealt, but general manager Omar Minaya said Tuesday that wasn't true. Minaya and several other Mets executives traveled to Atlanta and met earlier in the day with Cameron, who said changing positions was a "very sensitive" issue for him and the chat was "definitely" necessary.

"We know this is a change and we don't take that change for granted," Minaya said. "He expressed to us his desire to win, and that he believes in the team. … I can tell you right now that if Opening Day was today, Mike Cameron would be our right fielder."

They talked about other skilled center fielders who successfully moved to a corner outfield spot, such as Minnesota's Jacque Jones and Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki when he came over from Japan.

Cameron sounds willing to give it a shot -- at least for now.

"I'm here to do what's in the best interests of the ballclub," he said. "It's hard. Imagine somebody coming in and telling you to do something different than you've always done.

"We'll see what happens, I don't know for sure. … I'll always view myself as a center fielder."

Regardless of what position he's playing, Cameron is expected to miss the start of the season following surgery to repair damaged cartilage in his left wrist.

He said he's healing faster than expected and should be able to do everything but hit when spring training starts. He hopes to be able to start taking some swings about 2-2½ weeks into camp.

Minaya said he's been speaking with Carlos Delgado's agent, David Sloane, every day, but they had not yet scheduled a meeting with the free-agent first baseman. … The Mets signed right-handed reliever Roberto Hernandez to a minor league contract and invited him to major league camp. The 40-year-old free agent went 3-5 with a 4.76 ERA in 63 games for Philadelphia last year. He ranks fourth among active pitchers with 320 saves.