MESA, Ariz. -- Speed can be a valuable tool in baseball, unless the opponent uses it against you.
Tony Campana knows more than anybody that speed can kill. Without it he doesn’t even have a chance at a major league roster spot.
But speed can also backfire, which means that being a great baserunner takes more than a set of fast legs.
Turning a double into a triple with some blazing speed can bring the entire dugout to the top step. But getting thrown out while attempting it can provide a huge energy boost to the opponent. It works the same way when stealing bases.
“You know when you’re on base that you’re going to get the catcher’s best shot,” Campana said. “They’re going to want ot go out there and throw out a guy like you. That’s what gets them fired up, so it goes both ways definitely.”
To his credit, Campana stole 24 bases in the big leagues last season and was caught just twice. But he was also picked off twice and made three other outs on the bases that had nothing to do with stealing.
Campana wants to make sure his weapon doesn’t turn against the Cubs, but first he has to make the team. Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd and David DeJesus will comprise the starting outfield. Reed Johnson is expected to be the fourth outfielder. Campana has work to do in order to make the squad.
He didn’t impress in the Cubs’ bunt contest, but the ability to bunt for hits isn’t rewarded in manager Dale Sveum’s 64-person tournament. Campana will have to move on and show his value in other areas. He noted that on defense he can “stir up a lot of excitement” by tracking down balls.
He wishes he could add a little power, but won’t get caught up in the grass always being greener.
“It’s funny though, because when you talk to guys like [Anthony] Rizzo and [Bryan] LaHair, they’re always talking about, ‘Man, I wonder about how many bags I can steal.’ Or like Rizzo the other day, ‘Man, I’ve always wanted to hit an inside-the-parker,” Campana said. “Yeah, but when you’re a guy like me you’re always thinking, ‘Man, I wish I was LaHair or Rizzo and can hit 30 bombs a year.’”
Instead he will have to rely on things like going first to third on a bloop single or taking away a double in the gap.
“I kind of own it [speed] because I’ve been like that my whole life; I love it,” said Campana, whose only tweak in his offseason routine was to do a little less yoga this winter. “I love causing pitchers to get antsy on the mound and knowing guys can start throwing the ball around if they get too excited.
“Since I was a little kid I have always been able to run a little bit faster than anybody else. I just took advantage of it. It’s always been normal for me.”