Campana Tearing It Up For Cubs

CHICAGO—Double-A Tennessee had a couple of main event prospects in shortstop Starlin Castro and righthander Andrew Cashner.

When things were going poorly with the parent club, those are the first two players who Cubs believed the team should bring up.

There's another player who few people are talking about. But that silence won't last long if he continues his hot start to the season.

Lefthanded hitting outfielder Tony Campana, a player who was drafted out of Cincinnati for his speed and baserunning instincts in the 13th round in 2008, was smoking at the plate for the Smokies.

Through his first 101 at-bats of the season, Campana, who recently turned 24, hit .356/.431/.446 with nine RBIs, 11 steals and had a 13-game hitting streak from the leadoff spot.

Veteran Smokies observers were already comparing him to Lonell Roberts, who swiped a franchise-best 57 bags in 1995 when the team was a part of the Blue Jays organization.

Farm director Oneri Fleita is happy to see Campana's bat heat up.

"The good news is that he's still a fast guy," Fleita said. "He's hitting the ball. He's learning the strike zone. He's taking his walks. And when he gets on base, boy he's something."

In his first 151 minor league games with the Cubs, Campana hit .281/.337/.308 with 88 stolen bases, including 55 in 108 games for high Class A Daytona in 2009. Now that he's hitting well over .300, Fleita said that Campana's success is having an effect on the Smokies offense.

"Starlin Castro is the beneficiary of batting behind (Campana)," Fleita said, prior to Castro's callup to the majors on May 7. "When Campana's on base, now you get good pitches. The catcher is calling for fastballs. The pitcher and catcher don't want breaking balls because he can steal a base. He really affects the game. You're a real lucky guy if you are hitting behind him.

"Pitchers are careful. They make mistakes and leave the ball over the plate."


• Triple-A Iowa catcher Welington Castillo threw out three of the first six runners who tried to steal against him in April.

• Low Class A Peoria opened the season 11-0 at their home field, O'Brien Stadium, before suffering a 4-3 loss to Clinton May 2. It was the Chiefs' best start at home since the stadium was built in 2002.