Campana has big opportunity to play small ball

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Campana has big opportunity to play small ball

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.

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

Despite the Cubs ending their 108-year World Series drought, Miguel Montero made offseason headlines for all the wrong reasons when he complained about his role in the Cubs' 2017 championship campaign.

Montero criticized Maddon's communication skills, catching rotation and bullpen decision-making after the team's Grant Park celebration. Maddon brushed off the criticism, and last week at spring training Montero said he hadn't spoke with the Cubs' skipper.

That tension appears to be all but a thing of the past, as Montero posted this picture of him and his manager sharing a drink together sporting nothing but smiles.

It's safe to say Montero would describe his relationship with Maddon now as: #WeAreGood.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Minnesota Wild tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Road warriors.

The Blackhawks have won six straight games away from the United Center, and are looking to make it a seventh in Minnesota tonight. They've scored the game's first goal in four of those wins, and in the other two, overcame 1-0 deficits to beat Dallas 5-3 and Edmonton 5-1, the latter of which they scored five unanswered goals.

2. Corey Crawford vs. Devan Dubnyk.

Crawford hasn't quite been the same since undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Dec. 3, but he turned in probably his best outing since then in the Blackhawks' last meeting against Minnesota on Feb. 8 when he stopped 35 of 38 shots in a 4-3 overtime win. He essentially stole two points, and prevented the Wild from picking up the extra one. Across from him tonight will be Dubnyk, who leads the league in wins (32), goals against average (1.97) and save percentage (.934).

3. Jonathan Toews on fire.

After a tough offensive drought earlier in the season that lasted longer than expected, the Blackhawks captain has six goals and 10 assists in his last 12 games, and upped his point total to 37, which now ranks fifth on the team. In the last meeting against Minnesota two weeks ago, Toews had a three-point night and scored the game winner in overtime. 

4. Mikael Granlund among league's most underrated players.

File Granlund under the category of players who don't get enough attention. He has 17 goals and 36 assists in 58 games this season, and his 53 points is tied with Jeff Carter and Artemi Panarin for 13th in the NHL's scoring race. The next highest point total on the Wild is Eric Staal with 45, an eight-point gap between him and Granlund. The 24-year-old forward registered his first career hat trick earlier this month, and also had a 12-game point streak just two weeks ago.

5. Ryan Hartman's closing in on 15 goals.

In Saturday's 3-1 loss to Edmonton, Hartman defended his teammate by fighting an Oilers defenseman that was practically twice his size. He called it a "no-brainer" to stick up for Tanner Kero and did well in the scrap, but it led to an Oilers power play and 10-minute misconduct which didn't do the Blackhawks any favors. He responded in a great way Sunday by scoring the game's first goal that helped his team win 5-1 in Buffalo. The next goal he scores will be No. 15, which would give the Blackhawks six 15-plus goal scorers on the year. They had only four a season ago.

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