Cameron likely to give No. 23 to Gonzalez
Veteran outfielder thrilled to be reunited with former teammate
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When Adrian Gonzalez was unveiled in front of all the microphones and cameras at Fenway Park late Monday morning, his new Red Sox jersey had no number on the back.
By the time Gonzalez gets to Fort Myers, Fla., for Spring Training, look for the familiar No. 23 to be stitched on to that uniform top. Veteran outfielder Mike Cameron -- a teammate of Gonzalez's with the Padres from 2006-07 -- is currently in possession of that number.
"We are in discussion," cackled Cameron by phone from Georgia. "I think I'm going to get something nice for Christmas, I can bet you that. He hasn't called me back yet."
Once Cameron caught wind of the fact Gonzalez was flying to Boston for a physical and was likely to soon become a member of the Red Sox, he phoned assistant equipment manager Edward "Pookie" Jackson.
"I told Pookie that [No.] 23 can't just be bought," said Cameron. "It's going to take a lot, because I've got my number stitched on my shoes and everything."
Cameron, in all seriousness, will be happy to switch to No. 44 -- a number he has worn for much of his career -- if that is available. Lars Anderson wore that number after his September callup, but he is unlikely to keep it from a veteran with Cameron's service time.
What Cameron is excited about -- more than any uniform number -- is the type of damage that Gonzalez will do for the Red Sox.
Cameron saw it up close for those two years in San Diego and is pretty sure Boston fans are going to love the player who is coming their way.
"The guy is a really good ballplayer, a smart, smart hitter," Cameron said. "Really smart. He's got unbelievable pop."
The biggest adjustment Cameron sees ahead for Gonzalez is adjusting to the caliber of pitching he will face in the American League East.
"Adrian is a really good hitter, but when you come to this division, there's a little bit of a learning process, and pretty much he'll be facing all of the best lefties in the game in this division," said Cameron. "It's going to be important that we help him out as much as possible so he can go out and do his thing. He knows how to play the game of baseball."
The way Gonzalez lofts the ball to the opposite field with ease, he might play pepper with the Green Monster like Fred Lynn did in the 1970s and Wade Boggs in the '80s.
"Let's hope so," Cameron said. "And let's hope he wears Pesky Pole out. I wouldn't mind that either."
Padres general manager Jed Hoyer added at his Monday news conference that Gonzalez is going to be "a monster at Fenway Park."
While Gonzalez's bat is his dominant feature, he is no slouch with the glove. In fact, he was the National League's Gold Glove winner at first base in 2008 and '09.
"Adrian is one of the best I've seen since John Olerud at first base with his ability," Cameron said. "He doesn't have quite the footspeed that [Kevin Youkilis] or Carlos Pena, but man, he's a vacuum cleaner over there. He's unbelievable."
Of course, there will be the market change, going from San Diego to the all-out passion of Boston.
"I'm hoping everything goes well for him and his wife Betsy, they're really good people," said Cameron. "I know they are entrenched over in San Diego, but this is going to definitely be an experience of a lifetime for him, and hopefully they find a good place to live and get comfortable so he can go out and do his thing."
For all the adjustments Gonzalez will have to make simply by being the obligatory marquee player who goes to a new team, his old manager had some words that should give great comfort to Red Sox fans.
"Nothing fazes him," Padres manager Bud Black said.
When asked what Red Sox fans will come to like about Gonzalez, Black spoke for more than a minute before coming up for air.
"You look at the all-around game," Black said. "I've said it many times -- great defender, makes plays on defense with his arm. Look at the other side, which is what everybody wants to talk about -- the offense.
"He has a great, fluid swing. He has great hand-eye coordination. He's a disciplined hitter. [He has] all-field power [and] hits the ball from line to line. [He is] tough to pitch to, tough to defend. He can manipulate the bat. He's a very good baseball player. When you add it all up, he has great instincts. He has a good awareness of the game. He plays the game under control, with poise."