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Darwin Barney gratified he’s around to be one of Cubs’ building blocks

DarwBarney 26 says he’s “happy still be here after crazy offseaswe had.”  |   Mark Duncan~AP

Darwin Barney, 26, says he’s “happy to still be here after the crazy offseason we had.” | Mark Duncan~AP

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Updated: April 30, 2012 8:32AM

MESA, Ariz. — Rick Sutcliffe, the former Cubs’ Cy Young Award winner and current part-time spring coach, was talking about a pitcher in camp and intangibles, and out of nowhere started talking about a second-year infielder.

“I’ll never forget Walter Alston years ago talking about a player, saying this is the kind of player I can win with,’’ Sutcliffe said. “Darwin Barney is an example of that. Maybe he doesn’t scout out like some of the other people, but when it’s said and done, he’s going to help you win more games than the guy with more ability.’’

Not bad for a guy with one full year in the big leagues. A guy still out to show he can stay strong and durable to the end of a long season, a guy who says he’s still trying to establish himself.

“Obviously, it’s nice to hear that people think that about you,’’ he said. “The only way people feel that way about you is you go about your business. … I’ve got to keep going.’’

After a .276 season that opened with a Rookie of the Month award for April and a .306 first half, Barney hit .238 after the All-Star break — when his weight dipped to 10-15 pounds under his opening weight of 179.

Then he watched some of the trades after the new front office took over and couldn’t help but wonder if he could be next.

“You never know,’’ he said. “But I’m happy to be here, and I’m happy I wasn’t ­traded.’’

Instead, Barney, 26, continued an offseason program and worked out with strength and conditioning coordinator Tim Buss to decrease body fat (from 13 percent down to 8) while increasing weight (190 this spring).

He also got some encouraging words from the new regime before he came to camp.

“They’ve instilled confidence in me,’’ he said. “They let me know that they believe that I can do what I believe I can do.’’

At the very least, it’s given Barney a much different outlook — even if he takes the same approach — than he had a year ago as a guy just trying to win a roster spot out of camp.

“The good thing that’s different about this year is they are up front with you, and you know you’re going to get honesty,’’ he said, “and as a player that means a lot, whether you like what you’re hearing or not. All I can really say is the communication’s been there with everybody. It’s been there from Day 1. And that’s the most important thing.’’

Barney emphasized that he takes nothing for granted, regardless of how encouraging the message or how highly he appears to be regarded by the staff.

“Those are just words. That’s why you don’t come in ­assuming anything,’’ he said. “You’ve just got to keep working hard and keep earning your keep and keep your goals focused on the team.’’

For what they’re worth, here’s a few more words on the matter: Barney’s poised to be an ­important part of the homegrown core the new ­regime envisions building its “sustained success’’ around, with guys such as Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson.

“I’d be lucky to be a Cub for the next three, four years is the way I look at it,’’ ­Barney said. “Am I happy to still be here after the crazy offseason we had? Most ­definitely. And will I be happy to still be here every day of the year? Yes.

“The way I look at it is that you can’t look at it as I’m part of the youth movement. I look at it as I’m fortunate to be here, and if I’m here in a couple years, that’s even ­better.’’

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