Darwin Barney remains focused despite trade speculation
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter March 24, 2014 9:58PM
Updated: April 26, 2014 6:23AM
MESA, Ariz. — Add the Texas Rangers to the list of playoff-minded teams who need middle-infield help after they announced second baseman Jurickson Profar could miss half the season with a shoulder injury.
You see that, Darwin Barney?
“You just stay focused and worry about your job today,” the Cubs’ Gold Glove second baseman said.
Meanwhile, the Cubs’ newest acquisition is utility man Emilio Bonifacio, whose natural position is second, and top prospect Javy Baez is being introduced to second base for a possible big-league debut this year.
You watching this, Darwin Barney?
“That’s the nature of the game, and you don’t [read] anything into it,” said Barney, a fourth-year starter who was viewed as a potential core player and “glue” guy for the new-world-order Cubs until a .208 season last year raised doubts.
“If I can be the player that I’ve been in the past, then there’s no reason that I don’t fit into the plan here,” he said. “But it’s all about taking care of business and helping this team win, so my mind’s on Opening Day and trying to prepare to help this team win. All that extra stuff, that’s just part of the game.’’
For now, it’s part of the baseball reality for Barney, 28, who might be at his biggest career crossroads since he was a rookie — a $2.3 million player for a team in transition, with prospects pushing and trade rumors looming.
“Every year you have to prove yourself,” said Barney, who hit .276 and .254 in his two full seasons before the previous field staff asked him to make fundamental changes to his hitting approach entering last season. “For me, it’s just that. My focus is on winning.
“If I do those things to help the team win, then there’s value there, so that’s where I’m at with that.”
And if he doesn’t? If he doesn’t have the bounce-back year many expect? “I don’t think that way,” he said.
If this spring is any indication, the bounce has already returned. He has reached base at least twice in three of his last four games and has a .364 on-base percentage this spring — including six walks in 44 plate appearances (compared to 36 in 555 last season).
“Obviously, getting on base is important and something I’ve been working on,” said Barney, who was coached away from his nature last year to look for pitches to jump on and drive — and who has since gotten back to trying to see the ball longer and taking it the other way if necessary.
“Find ways to get on base — that’s where my head’s at,” he added, “and not worry about hitting doubles and home runs and OPS — kind of get away from worrying about the numbers and just trying to put good at-bats together and swing at good pitches.
“I’m happy with my spring in that regard. Hopefully, it can translate into the season.”
Wherever that season might take him — within the organization’s plans, or somewhere else.
“You just have to take care of business on the field,” he said. “You’re not only competing with the guys in the clubhouse; you’re competing with the guys across the league to play this game as long as you can.”
So trade rumors, prospects and new guys who play his position?
“It’s nothing new,” he said.