Cameron set to return to Red Sox

Cameron set to return to Red Sox

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Red Sox will welcome Mike Cameron back to their starting lineup for Tuesday night's game against the Rays, as the outfielder is set to return from a lower abdominal strain that has kept him on the disabled list since April 19.

If you think Cameron has been out awhile, consider that he's actually ahead of schedule, compared to most people who have similar injuries.

"Everybody I talked to who had this injury missed two months or they had surgery," said Cameron. "Pretty much everybody. Torii Hunter, [Josh] Hamilton, Joba Chamberlain. I just met some guys in the Minor Leagues who had the same thing."

Unlike Jacoby Ellsbury, who returned Saturday and will pretty much be full speed ahead in terms of playing time, Cameron will get breaks mixed in. He also might not be ready to patrol center field on a full-time basis. The presence of Ellsbury -- a full-time center fielder until this season -- makes it easy for manager Terry Francona to play Cameron in the corner spots if need be.

Is Cameron ready to handle the rigors of center field again?

"Yeah, I should be OK. Yeah, I don't know, you'll have to talk to Tito," said Cameron. "I may even move around a little bit, to different spots."

It is a delicate injury -- one that Cameron took precautions with while he was on the comeback trail. He finally turned a corner in the last few days, capped by a walk-off homer in the 10th inning for Double-A Portland on Sunday.

"I haven't hit a walk-off in God knows when," Cameron said. "To actually hit a homer and hit it in extra innings is, you know, I think I may be the first guy to play 10 innings in a rehab assignment start."

Cameron joined the Red Sox for Monday's game, but the club will wait a day to activate him so he can get his feet back under him.

How did he know he was ready to return?

"I just feel like now I won't get hurt, because I feel like I'm to a point now where I'm strong enough to kind of withstand some of the things that are going on," said Cameron.

Francona will be cognizant of not playing Cameron too much too soon, something that is made easier by having Jeremy Hermida available off the bench.

"We're probably not going to be able to run him out there every day for awhile," Francona said. "We know that. And I think he knows that. Having him activated, and we have Hermida, now we've got Ells back, we think we can do this, and again, we understand that we have a responsibility not to run him into the ground. We understand that. We'll keep an eye on him and we think it'll work well."