Campana's late-inning value raises debate

June, 1, 2012
6/01/12
10:04
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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If Tony Campana wants to make his return to the starting lineup a permanent thing, there is both good news and bad news for the Chicago Cubs speedster.

The good news is that when Campana has come off the bench, he has made himself useful. That was extremely apparent in Wednesday’s game against the San Diego, when he came on as a pinch runner in the eighth inning, stole second and third base then scored the game-tying run.

[+] EnlargeTony Campana
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesTony Campana's base-stealing ability has given the Cubs a spark this season.
It’s production like that that can get you back into a starting role and at least part of the reason he started against a lefty Friday instead of David DeJesus.

So now for the bad news: The type of production Campana has delivered has only magnified his value in the late innings as a guy who can come off the bench and deliver an impact in a short amount of time while fresh.

Including Campana’s two late-game steals Wednesday, he is now 7-for-7 on steal attempts in the seventh inning or later in one-run games. Of those seven steals, he has scored a run four times. And in those four games where he did score after a steal in a one-run game, the Cubs won all of them.

No team in baseball has a secret weapon like Cubs manager Dale Sveum does. There isn’t a player in the game that has more than four steals in similar late-game situations.

In all other game scenarios, Campana is still doing just fine on stolen-base attempts, going 8-for-10.

Sveum reiterated this week that Campana isn’t completely to blame for his recent role off the bench. The club has been so starved for runs that Joe Mather and his .455 slugging percentage have been getting more at-bats of late. Mather now starts in center field against most right-handed pitching and plays at third base against lefties.

Campana still has made himself useful in a reduced role, though. The questions Sveum must ponder is whether Campana can be doing more as a starter again or if his role off the bench is making him hungry to make an impact when he does get in a game.

Campana isn’t the only player that has been able to produce off the bench. Reed Johnson's seven pinch hits are tied for second in baseball, one behind the New York Mets' Mike Baxter. Johnson is 7-for-15 as a pinch hitter with a home run and three RBIs.

It’s no surprise, then that the Cubs are one of the better late-scoring teams in baseball. Heading into play Friday, the Cubs’ 34 ninth-inning runs were second in all of baseball to the Philadelphia Phillies' 37. And their 57 runs from the eighth inning or later were third best in the National League

Doug Padilla

Chicago White Sox beat reporter
Doug joined ESPN Chicago in July 2010 and covers the Chicago White Sox for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Starlin Castro
BA HR RBI R
.292 14 65 58
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Rizzo 31
RBIA. Rizzo 74
RA. Rizzo 86
OPSA. Rizzo .895
WJ. Arrieta 9
ERAT. Wood 4.86
SOJ. Arrieta 157