04/25/12 1:48 AM ET
LaHair delivers crucial homer off left-hander
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
On Tuesday, LaHair delivered a leadoff homer in the ninth off the Cardinals Marc Rzepczynski for his first hit off a lefty in seven at-bats. Alfonso Soriano's walk-off single an inning later gave the Cubs a 3-2 win.
So far, Jeff Baker has started at first base against left-handed starters, while LaHair has faced more righties. The latter finished Tuesday hitting .424 (14-for-33) against right-handers; the former entered the day with a career .309 average against lefties and was 2-for-8 this season.
"I'm not afraid of left-handers," LaHair said before the game. "I feel any time I come to the plate, I can do something, whether it's lefty or righty. I'm on board [with sharing first]. I have a role and I've accepted it."
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said he didn't consider lifting LaHair for a pinch-hitter in the ninth on Tuesday.
"You do want to give him at-bats against lefties, you don't want to straight platoon," Sveum said. "The bottom line is Baker swings the heck out of the bat against left-handed pitching and you have to give him at-bats and sometimes without jeopardizing our defense in other areas, that's the one spot Baker is going to play."
Someday, LaHair may have to make room for first-base prospect Anthony Rizzo, who finished the day batting .373 with seven home runs at Triple-A Iowa.
"I've been following him, and I know he's doing well," LaHair said. "That's to be expected. The kid can really hit, there's no doubt about it. I know he's down there working on some things and trying to make adjustments. I've been there before. He's going to figure out that little part that he needs to figure out, and I'm sure he'll have a lot of success."
LaHair said he feels comfortable in the outfield, so if the Cubs ask him to move over to make room for Rizzo, he would do it. Right now, LaHair doesn't plan on stepping aside.
"This is my opportunity," LaHair said. "It's something I've visualized my entire life. I've been seeing myself do this for a while."
A few years ago, LaHair was more of a free swinger. He'd like to have more at-bats like he did Monday night against Jason Motte, when he drew a walk after 12 pitches from the Cardinals' closer.
"I'm more consistent now, I know what I want to do," LaHair said. "I simplify as much as I can. If it's not the pitch I'm looking for, I try to take it, but it's not always that easy.
Since making his debut with the Cubs on Sept. 4, LaHair has averaged 4.20 pitches per plate appearance, which is fifth among National League hitters in that span.
"I'm still going to strike out -- I'm not up there to walk, at the end of the day," he said. "At this level, it's important to get on base and keep the line moving. Wearing down the pitcher is a big part of it, too. If they throw me a cookie on the first pitch for 10 at-bats, I'm going to swing at it. If I ground out 10 in a row, it is what it is. I'm just trying to get good at-bats."
Campana's speed creates distraction for Cubs
CHICAGO -- Tony Campana is fast, and the Cubs outfielder and Milwaukee's Nyjer Morgan have challenged each other to a foot race.
"We talked and bickered about who is faster," Campana said prior to a 3-2 win on Tuesday. "[Morgan] said we have to put something on it, so I told him to put his paycheck on it. He said his was bigger than mine, so that wasn't fair. I said, 'If you really think you can beat me, that shouldn't matter.'"
Of course, Morgan and Campana aren't the only speedsters in the Majors.
"Dee Gordon can run," Campana said of the Dodgers shortstop. "We've talked about racing. We came up through the Minor Leagues together. We've been talking about it for a long time. We've been talking a lot of trash."
For now, Campana will stick to his day job of creating havoc on the bases. On Monday, he delivered a pinch-hit single in the eighth, drew seven pickoff attempts from the pitcher, and eventually stole second, then third.
On Tuesday night, he singled in the 10th and stole second on a controversial play that Cardinals manager Mike Matheny argued. Matheny ended up getting tossed. Campana scored the winning run a few batters later.
"If he's swinging the bat, it's hard not to play him," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Campana. "He makes pitchers make mistakes because they're paying attention to him. He brings a lot to the table, that kind of speed. You can't defend it sometimes."
"I like when I get reactions out of people," Campana said. "I can kind of see when they're getting frustrated. I like that and want to make them think about me, so they stop thinking about the pitch they have to make."
Campana's speed is his best asset, but this spring, that seemed to be the only thing he had working. He batted .222 in Cactus League games and was bothered by a wrist injury. Campana was sent to Triple-A Iowa to start the season, but he was recalled on Friday.
"I wanted to make the club, but I didn't do all that well in Spring Training," Campana said. "I struggled and I didn't really deserve [to be on the Opening Day roster]. I knew I had to go down there and show what I could do. I was excited when I got the call again."
He'll share center field now with Reed Johnson and Joe Mather, following the departure of Marlon Byrd, who was traded Saturday to the Red Sox.
"Marlon taught me a lot on defense," Campana said. "There were different things to look at when you're in the outfield to get better jumps and take better reads. I appreciate it 100 percent. He told me any time I have a question to give him a call."
As Soriano ends drought, so do Cubs sluggers
CHICAGO -- Bryan LaHair ended the Cubs homerless drought at nine games with a solo shot in the ninth inning Tuesday night, but Alfonso Soriano's three-hit game may have had a bigger impact on a 3-2 victory.
Soriano, 36, may be over his slump after hitting the game-winner with a clutch RBI single in the 10th. He ended an 0-for-14 skid with another single in the second, then doubled in the fourth for his first extra-base hit of the season.
"I know he's been a little down and struggling a little bit," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "He's been working his [backside] off and it paid off."
Soriano said he's been feeling better at the plate.
"The last two days, I've felt my swing back," he said. "Today, I was more selective at home plate. When I swing at a good pitch, I hit the ball hard. My swing is good. That's the only thing I have to control at home plate [is being selective.]"
He is the oldest player on the Cubs and gets a kick out of the high-energy kids on the roster.
"It makes me young," Soriano said. "It makes me happy. I know I'm 36 years old, 11 years in the game, but with those guys, it's like my first year in the big leagues. I'm very happy."
Sveum said he's going to keep Soriano in the No. 5 spot.
"I think he's still a threat," Sveum said. "I'm not going to move him down any time soon, that's for sure. He's a big threat. He's in the five-spot and he's got people around him who can do things. The media guide doesn't lie. When it's all said and done, he'll end up with his 25 to 30 home runs and we'll look back on this and laugh at it."
Soriano smiled when told what Sveum said.
"That's the last thing I want to lose in my mind is my confidence," he said. "I know what I can do. We play 162 games and sometimes you have a bad week, two weeks. That doesn't mean the season is over."
Right-hander Rodrigo Lopez cleared waivers Tuesday signed a Minor League contract with the Cubs, joining Triple-A Iowa. Lopez was designated for assignment to make room on the roster when the Cubs acquired reliever Michael Bowden from the Red Sox for Marlon Byrd.
Lopez appeared in four games for the Cubs, all in relief, and compiled a 5.68 ERA (four earned runs in 6 1/3 innings).
Back-to-back night games at Wrigley Field Monday and Tuesday gave the Cubs a chance to get some early work in. On Monday, it was pitcher fielding practice, and on Tuesday, they worked on outfield defense.
"We're always going to try to do something to keep up on fundamentals," Sveum said.
Cuban pitcher Gerardo Concepcion will make his first pro start for the Cubs on Wednesday for Class A Peoria. The Cubs signed Concepcion in March to a five-year, $6 million contract. The Cuban National Series Rookie of the Year last year, Concepcion, 20, had been in Mesa, Ariz., in extended spring camp.
On Tuesday, Paul Hoilman hit a walk-off grand slam to lead the Chiefs to a 6-2 victory over Lansing. Kyler Burke, who was the Cubs' Minor League Player of the Year in 2009 and is converting to pitching, gave up three singles over six shutout innings.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.