In a mid-January MLB Network Radio interview with Cliff Floyd and Jeff Joyce, 39-year-old, 17-year veteran outfielder Mike Cameron told the hosts that he was preparing for Spring Training with the Washington Nationals, but didn't know what to expect heading into what would have been his 18th MLB season with his ninth different team. The 6'2'', 210lb center fielder split the 2011 season between Boston and Florida, joining the Marlins in a trade that sent a PTBNL and cash to the Red Sox, and hitting for a combined .203/.285/.359 line with 10 doubles and nine home runs in 78 games and 269 plate appearances. The Nationals brought Cameron in on a minor league deal, and he told the MLB Network Radio hosts he wanted to make sure his legs were in shape before he headed to Spring Training, "Because it looks like I'm going to have to go down and try to put on a show in Spring Training to get on the squad."
"There's really not a whole lot of urgency for me," the Chicago White Sox' 1991 18th Round pick responded when asked about having to win a spot this Spring. "I just want to go and see and make sure that I can still play at this level," Cameron said. "I won't put that much pressure on myself like it's life and death for me to try do it, but I always try go into Spring Training and compete a little bit, because, I heard George Brett say this one time, that no matter where you go play baseball, whether it's a pick-up game, softball, celebrity game or whatever, you don't want to embarrass yourself when you go out on that field, and if I felt like it was getting to that point, I would just kind of like slide off, and go off into the sunset in my little black Escalade."
The chances of Mike Cameron embarrassing himself were slim, he was expected to at least start the season on the Nationals' roster as part of a platoon in center, but he apparently determined that he couldn't start another Spring. The Nationals announced this morning on Twitter (@NationalsPR) that the outfielder had informed them that he would retire from the game before ever having reported to Spring Training. He told the MLB Network Radio hosts at the time of the interview that he was following the Nats news this winter to keep himself informed, and from what he'd read, "It sounds like [Davey Johnson] kind of likes Jayson Werth in center, that is, if [Bryce] Harper's ready to play, so then I'll just kind of see where I figure in somewhere in there."
"But I understand [that] they're trying to make sure that their team is ready for  with the best twenty-five players they can possibly get," Cameron said, "Hopefully I go down [there] and open up eyes a little bit." Cameron said he was excited about the possibility of joining an up and coming team like the Nationals, who he compared to the Milwaukee Brewers he joined in 2008, but, "... with better pitching." Instead of competing for a spot, Cameron will retire from the game after 1,955 games and 7,884 plate appearances over which he had a .249/.338/.444 career line with a 162-game average of 32 doubles and 23 HR's.
Cameron's decision does leave the Nationals with one less option to fill the center field position, however. Roger Bernadina, Rick Ankiel and Jayson Werth could play center, of course, and the Nats' plans for Bryce Harper will determine how the outfield looks on Opening Day, though talk of Washington pursuing a center fielder will continue all Spring. The Nationals have Eury Perez, Corey Brown, Xavier Paul, Brett Carroll and Jason Michaels in camp this Spring. Do they need another option? After failing to find a fit for their CF/leadoff needs this winter, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo said the possibilities available for 2013 were more promising. Will Cameron's decision force the Nationals to make another move before Opening Day?
• Update: 6:15 pm EST - via MLB.com's Bill Ladson on Twitter (@washingnats): "I just spoke to Mike Cameron. He decided to retire last Wednesday. #Nats GM Mike Rizzo tried to talk him out of it."