8/5 Speed racer

How fast is Tony Campana?

“He’s going to beat me in a foot race,” Ryan Dempster said of the rookie outfielder. “Even if he was to run backward, I think he’s got me.”

On Friday, Campana showed his speed with his first big league homer, an inside the park sprint in the first inning, in the Cubs’ 4-3 win over the Reds. He had never homered in either the Minor Leagues or the Major Leagues, unless you count an inside the park homer in the playoffs last year for Double-A Tennessee. His last home run was his last hit for the University of Cincinnati in 2008. He had a slight edge then, though.

“Aluminum bat,” he said.

Of course, Campana had to deal with some razzing. Teammate Jeff Baker told the rookie that the hit was ruled a double and an error. But it wasn’t.

“I always got a hard time from guys in the Minors who said the only way I’d hit a home run was an inside the parker, and I guess they were right,” Campana said.

He’s the first Cubs player ever to hit an inside the park homer at Wrigley for his first career blast.

“I hit the ball and the first thing I thought was that the third baseman was going to catch it,” Campana said. “It got by him, and I thought, ‘That’s a double.’ I saw [Yonder Alonso] hit the wall and I thought I had a chance to get all the way around. I almost caught Starlin Castro and I was hoping I didn’t catch him.”

How fast is Campana? Nyjer Morgan has challenged him to a foot race. Campana suggested the All-Star Game add a sprint to its list of events. Line up Michael Bourn, Dee Gordon and Carlos Gomez, too, and see what happens.

“I’d love to do something like that,” Campana said.

Right now, the Cubs want him to focus on helping either off the bench or in the field.

“I do whatever I can do to help the team and that’s usually getting in and playing good defense and stealing a bag here and there,” Campana said. “When I get a spot start, I try to bring in some excitement to the team.”

— Carrie Muskat

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