Campana has big opportunity to play small ball

Campana has big opportunity to play small ball
May 2, 2012, 2:47 am
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CINCINNATI The Cubs dont know exactly where Tony Campana fits into the plans, but theyre willing to find out. And its not like many in the clubhouse have guarantees anymore.

Thats part of the reason why Theo Epsteins front office paid the Boston Red Sox to take on Marlon Byrd and create an opening in center field.

The Cubs are going to make top prospect Brett Jackson earn his promotion and improve his two-strike approach, base-running angles and overall game at Triple-A Iowa.

Its an awesome opportunity for me, Campana said. Bretts a good player down there and everybody knows hes going to be up here when hes ready. But until that comes, hopefully I can be here and prove that I deserve to be here.

Campana was back home at Great American Ball Park before Tuesdays game against the Reds was rained out. Almost a year ago, the old administration promoted Campana, and he instantly became a feel-good story for the local media.

The University of Cincinnati graduate had overcome Hodgkins lymphoma as a kid and was all set to make his big-league debut on May 17, 2011.

The night before, then-manager Mike Quade had seen enough sloppy play and addressed the team in a closed-door meeting. The Cubs responded by committing four errors and giving up seven unearned runs in a 7-5 loss to the Reds. In between, the team announced that Andrew Cashner was being shut down after an MRI revealed right shoulder inflammation.

Thrown into the middle of a team that was unraveling Quade called it pretty damn close to rock bottom Campana made an immediate impact.

Campana entered the game as a pinch-runner and scored, and hit an RBI double in his first major-league at-bat. He may fit in even better now with a new coaching staff that values aggressive running and preaches the idea of capturing bases.

That kind of speed, you cant teach it, manager Dale Sveum said. You cant do anything about it. Sometimes its indefensible. If you do worry about it, then sometimes it gets you in trouble.

Campana, who will turn 26 later this month, is listed at 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds. He has game-changing speed, and questions about how high his ceiling will be.

As long as he hits, he can be an everyday player, Sveum said. As long as he can get on base, hes going to be an impact-type guy with that kind of speed. Hes just got to be able to hit and get his bunts down and do the things hes doing right now on an everyday basis.

Hes going to get an opportunity here for a little while.

Campana disrupted Phillies ace Roy Halladay, who likes to work fast, with machine-like efficiency. Campana didnt have to hit the ball out of the infield and went 2-for-5 with a stolen base and two runs scored in Fridays 5-1 victory.

When he gets on first, as a pitcher, you have to change, said Paul Maholm, the winning pitcher that night. You cant have big leg kicks. Hes going to take off and thats a positive in having a guy like that. Thats like having Ichiro or Michael Bourn or one of those guys that can change a game once they get on base.

Campana reached base six times and scored six runs during the four-game series in Philadelphia over the weekend. Since being recalled from Iowa, hes hitting .370 (10-for-27) with two walks and seven stolen bases in his last seven games.

Tonys just been an amazing spark to our lineup, utility man Joe Mather said.

When will it burn out? The Cubs want to see what theyve got in Campana, who didnt earn a job out of spring training. Jacksons coming fast, but this is Campanas big opportunity to play small-ball.

I knew I was going to be back, Campana said. I didnt do well in spring training. I didnt hit enough. I knew I didnt really deserve to split with the team. But I knew that I would get at-bats every day down there in Triple-A and get my swing back.

And I have something that people can use a little bit.