Darwin Barney still figuring out his role with Cubs
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter April 10, 2014 8:35PM
Updated: April 10, 2014 10:20PM
Three series into a new season with a new manager and coaching staff, second baseman Darwin Barney doesn’t know much about his tenuous hold on the starting job he’s owned for the last three years.
“Obviously, it’s not the same,” said Barney, who was out of the starting lineup Thursday for the fourth time in nine games.
Since earning the starting job a week into the 2011 season, Barney hasn’t missed as many starts in a similar stretch that didn’t involve an injury.
“But that’s the nature of the game,” he said. “And last year happened. So I have to continue to show that’s not who I am.”
Barney, who hit .276 in 2011 and .254 in 2012 as he developed into a Gold Glover, slumped to .208 last year while trying to adopt changes to his hitting style that previous management wanted to see.
This spring, his approach looked more like the 2011-12 version. He saw more pitches and drew more walks.
On Wednesday, he singled and walked twice (one intentional). He walked again Thursday after coming off the bench as part of a double switch, giving him a team-high six. Barney is hitting only .200, but he has a .429 on-base percentage.
Manager Rick Renteria has been non-committal about his plans at second base, but he has been clear about finding a place in the field every day for leadoff man Emilio Bonifacio, who can play six positions. He has started in center field and at second for the Cubs, with a late-inning cameo at third Thursday.
Barney likely would be a good fit as an every-day second baseman in a contender’s lineup, where he might benefit offensively from bigger bats around him. He’s one of at least seven players who could be on the trading block by July.
Barney has said he wants to stay with the Cubs and win with the Cubs, even if it means proving himself as a big-league starter all over again. Even if it means Bonifacio or Luis Valbuena are in the mix for playing time at second — with top prospect Javy Baez knocking at the door from Class AAA Iowa.
“I’m a part of this team, just like anybody else,” Barney said, “and my job is to help this team win when I’m out there in any situation that they need me.”