When Daz Cameron’s phone rang, he wasn’t quite sure whom to expect on the other end of the line.
After a tumultuous season with Triple-A Toledo, the 22-year-old center fielder did his best to rid the frustration and focus on his latest assignment to the winter Puerto Rican League with Santurce, located in the largest neighborhood of San Juan.
For Cameron, the assignment was viewed as a second chance to finish the year on a high note.
After a brief trip to Triple-A in 2018, Cameron returned to Toledo at the outset of 2019. It turned out to be one of the more challenging campaigns of Cameron’s career.
Over 120 games, Cameron’s strikeout percentage rose to nearly 29 percent as he hit .214/.330/.377 with 13 home runs and 17 stolen bases. He believes the challenges were mental and has been working to address them since arriving in Puerto Rico.
Then the voice of general manager Al Avila came through the other end of the phone, notifying Cameron that he had been added to the Tigers’ 40-man roster.
For Cameron, that call spelled relief.
“He told me he was proud of me, and proud of the hard work,” Cameron said. “He said they have faith in me and they know I’m going to do good things for the ball club and they believe in me.
“I was just smiling,” Cameron said. “I instantly called my dad and he was like, ‘What? No way! That’s awesome, man. That’s great.’ So to get the reaction from him, and my mom is very excited for me too. It’s just an amazing feeling.”
Cameron joined the organization in August 2017 as part of the return from the Astros for Justin Verlander. Houston drafted him in the supplemental first round out of high school in 2015.
One of the strongest defenders in the farm system, Cameron’s focus entering 2020 will be at the plate, in hopes of not repeating the challenges of 2019.
“I believe in myself first and foremost,” Cameron said. “I’m just excited to be a part of the organization’s growth. It’s just the beginning and I’m not going to settle.”
— Prior to the Nov. 20 reserve roster deadline, the Tigers added six players to their 40-man roster: righthanders Beau Burrows, Anthony Castro and Kyle Funkhouser, third baseman Isaac Paredes and outfielders Daz Cameron and Derek Hill.
The Tigers opted not to protect Hill in 2018 but he went unselected. After a healthy season at Double-A Erie, Hill improved his stock. He is an elite defender and outstanding runner, but his contact rate remains unpredictable.