At age 29, Campillo collects first victory

Campillo cruises to first career win

ATLANTA -- During the early weeks of Spring Training, Braves manager Bobby Cox occasionally mentioned that he was impressed with a non-roster invitee named Jorge Campillo. Two months later, Cox isn't the only one singing the praises of this 29-year-old right-hander.

After watching him dazzle the Mets during the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader at Turner Field, plenty of Braves fans have reason to wonder if this journeyman might actually provide the stability that their team has been desperately seeking for the back end of Atlanta's rotation.

When Tom Glavine baffled them in the first game of the doubleheader, the Mets were willing to tip their cap toward a former teammate. But when Campillo prolonged their frustration and helped the Braves claim a 6-2 win in the nightcap, they could only wonder why it's taken so long for this hurler to gain a lasting spot in the Majors.

"Who expects six shutout innings against the Mets?" Cox said after his team gained its first doubleheader sweep since 2005. "We started him because we thought he could do a good job against them, and he did an excellent job."

By limiting the Mets to three hits in six scoreless innings, Campillo earned his first Major League victory. More importantly, he's earned the trust of Cox, who plans to bring the Mexican right-hander back on three days' rest to face the Diamondbacks on Saturday.

"This is the biggest thing that's ever happened to me since I've been playing baseball," said Campillo, who began this season with Triple-A Richmond and then was promoted to Atlanta on April 10.

Before Tuesday, Campillo had posted a 1.27 ERA and limited opponents to a .203 batting average in 13 relief appearances. While the numbers were dazzling, this was certainly more than he could have expected in what was essentially his first career Major League start.

His only other start came on Aug. 2, 2005, when he lasted just one inning for the Mariners because of a right sore elbow. This was the first sign that he needed Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, a procedure that would force him to miss a majority of the 2006 season.

When he came back last year and led the Pacific Coast League with a 3.07 ERA, the Mariners couldn't find room for him on their 40-man roster. Based on strong recommendations from Dick Balderson and Jim Fregosi, two of their top scouts, the Braves signed the hurler to a Minor League contract.

"I think I got my confidence back," Campillo said. "I'm really appreciative of what the team has done for me."

After watching Campillo, who pitched in the Mexican League from 1997-2004, hit his spots with regularity during Spring Training, Cox knew he might have something special. He's compared his command to that shown by John Smoltz and Glavine.

"He's a master of changing speeds," Cox said. "His fastball looks like it's 95 [mph], instead of 84-89. Those guys have a knack for pitching and can win like that."

Right now, it doesn't seem like it matters who the Braves send to the mound when they're at home. They've won 11 of their past 12 games at Turner Field and own a National League-best 18-5 home record.

Aiding Campillo in his effort were Chipper Jones who contributed a first-inning RBI double and Kelly Johnson, who highlighted a three-run third inning with a two-run triple off Mets starter Claudio Vargas.

Combined with the 6-1 win his club gained in the first game, there was plenty for Cox to enjoy during this long day-night twin bill, which was prolonged by a 99-minute rain delay before the second game. But the ending became a little painful when Yunel Escobar injured his right leg while turning a game-ending double play.

As he was attempting to leap over Ryan Church's hard slide, Escobar's knee drilled Church in the upper portion of his forehead. The Mets right fielder remained motionless on the field with his face in the dirt and Escobar had to be helped off the field by his teammates.

Escobar, who went 5-for-9 during the doubleheader, was still limping under his own power after the game. The Braves shortstop is questionable for Wednesday night's game.

During the first game of the doubleheader, Glavine allowed five of the first six batters he faced to reach safely and still surrendered just one run in the first inning. This started a downward trend for the Mets, who were held scoreless over 15 consecutive innings before scoring two eighth-inning runs off Blaine Boyer in the nightcap.

Before Boyer was charged with these runs, the Braves bullpen had completed 20 consecutive scoreless innings. Although he allowed three hits in 1 1/3 innings, Manny Acosta pitched a scoreless ninth and notched his third save.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.