Invited to his first big league training camp this spring with the New York Mets, Eric Campbell wasn’t content just to be there. Named the 51s’ Most Valuable Player by the coaching staff last season, Campbell made a strong bid to make the Mets as a utility man.
“He opened up a lot of eyes in spring training,” Las Vegas manager Wally Backman said. “He was one of the last guys sent out, and there was a lot of talk about him — the way he handled himself as a professional and his work ethic.
“He showed those people in the big leagues he can swing the bat, and he can play multiple positions.”
Campbell — who hit a towering go-ahead two-run homer and doubled in the 51s’ 5-4 win over El Paso on Monday night at Cashman Field — already has played every position this season except for pitcher, catcher and center field.
He earned regular playing time in spring training when first basemen Lucas Duda and Ike Davis were sidelined with injuries, and made the most of it, batting .304 (14-for-46) in 24 games.
Not that Campbell’s confidence needed a boost.
“I’ve felt from day one that I can play in the big leagues. That’s the only reason that I’m playing is to make it there,” he said. “Hopefully I’ve proved to them what I’ve always believed in myself — that I can help them win games.”
A corner infielder and outfielder in his first six pro seasons, Campbell has seen action this year at shortstop and second base, where he has worked tirelessly with Backman — the former Mets second baseman who said Campbell’s versatility can be his ticket to the majors.
“He’s a baseball player is what he is,” Backman said. “I wouldn’t be afraid to put him at second in the big leagues after watching him play second only four games for me. If he can fill in at short and second in the big leagues, he can become a super utility guy.
“And I wouldn’t just put the super utility label on him because he’s hit like .360 the last three years against left-handed pitching. Guys that can do that are special.”
A Norwich, Conn., native and Boston College product, Campbell said he’ll do whatever it takes to reach the majors.
“Whether that’s playing shortstop, second, center field, whatever,” he said. “I’m into it if it gets me up there.”
On the cusp of making his major league debut this season, Campbell was on the cusp of getting cut not long ago.
Mired in a slump midway through the 2011 season — when he batted a career-low .247 for Double-A Binghamton under Backman — Campbell was concerned his days with the Mets were numbered.
“I turned it around and finished up strong, and that probably saved me from getting released that next spring training,” he said. “It’s taken off since then.”
Campbell bounced back to bat .297 in 2012 and .314 last season for Las Vegas, with a career-high 66 RBIs and a Pacific Coast League-leading .435 on-base percentage.
He went 2-for-4 Monday to lift his batting average to .316 with three homers, a team-leading 15 RBIs and league-leading 21 runs.
“From 2011 to me having him last year to this year, the improvements he’s made in his whole game are second to probably nobody,” Backman said. “He knows he’s real close. He’s fighting for it. He wants a job.”
If and when Campbell is summoned to the majors, he plans to stay there.
“I feel like if they do happen to call my name that I’ll be ready to help them win,” he said. “It would mean everything, but one thing I want to make sure is that when I do get called up, I want to stick forever.
“I don’t want to be one of those guys who goes up and down. I’m really trying to prepare myself to play forever up there.”
■ NOTES — Catcher Taylor Teagarden hit a two-run homer in the fourth for the league-leading 51s (14-5), who erased a 4-0 deficit. ... Miguel Socolovich earned the win, allowing one hit with four strikeouts and no walks in three scoreless innings. Vic Black followed with a perfect eighth and closer Jeff Walters pitched a perfect ninth for his fifth save. ... 51s first baseman Allan Dykstra — no relation to former Mets star Lenny Dykstra — was named the PCL Player of the Week after batting .450 with two homers and 10 RBIs from April 14 to Sunday, when he hit a two-run shot in Las Vegas’ 11-4 victory over El Paso (7-11). Last year’s Eastern League MVP for Binghamton, Dykstra is batting .368 in his first Triple-A season.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33.