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Clutch Darwin Barney a big hit with Dale Sveum

DarwBarney Bryan LaHair

Darwin Barney, Bryan LaHair

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Updated: August 17, 2012 7:09AM

Second baseman Darwin Barney has earned manager Dale Sveum’s respect for his defense, but his clutch hitting has been just as impressive.

‘‘A lot of his hits have been big hits,’’ Sveum said Sunday, the latest being his two-run homer in the second inning that was the difference in the Cubs’ 3-1 victory. ‘‘They’re either at the right time, like his [RBI] double [with two outs Saturday] or bopping a big homer. He’s done a great job.

‘‘We know what he’s done defensively, and I’ve said it before: I don’t think there’s been anyone better at second base.’’

Barney, in his second full season with the Cubs, has a 75-game errorless streak at second. He credits an offseason conditioning program with helping him stay stronger, especially at the plate.

‘‘Losing 20 pounds [during the season] last year was hard on my body,’’ Barney said. ‘‘You just have more energy now.’’

Pitch perfect

Kerry Wood has been retired for two months but is keeping abreast of the Cubs as a fan.

He has liked some of the moves made by management and has been especially impressed by Ryan Dempster.

‘‘It’s amazing,’’ Wood said of Dempster’s 33 consecutive scoreless innings. ‘‘He’s obviously in a groove and feeling it. Guys don’t get in those kinds of grooves often.’’

Wood has kept busy with his young family and his Wood Family Foundation charity. But he plans to talk to the Cubs’ management team in the offseason about a role with the organization.

‘‘It won’t be coaching,’’ Wood said. ‘‘My kids are too young to think about that.’’

In a sling

Third baseman Ian Stewart isn’t sure if he’ll return before the end of the season after surgery to repair a bone impingement in his left wrist. But he is optimistic about a full recovery for next season.

‘‘I’ll probably take the normal time off and then get ready,’’ he said.

Stewart is signed with the Cubs through this season, but his return is unclear.

His wrist is in a sling for several weeks. He will be re-evaluated in late August or early September.

‘‘We’ll play it by ear,’’ Stewart said. ‘‘Actually, the best thing for me is coming here and just being around the team. That helps me.’’

Keep on turning

The Cubs turned an inning-ending double play in the fifth, giving them 10 consecutive games with at least one double play. It’s their longest such streak since May 1994, when they had 11 games in a row with double plays.

Slumping Starlin

Shortstop Starlin Castro is going through his first slump of the season. His average is down to .284 after going 1-for-12 on the homestand.

‘‘He’s a bit of a drifter at the plate, but he can’t let his hands drift with him,’’ Sveum said.

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