Darwin Barney: From Gold Glover to utility player to possible trade material
By Gordon Wittenmyer Staff Reporter May 24, 2014 10:38PM
Updated: June 26, 2014 6:54AM
SAN DIEGO — Darwin Barney is fast approaching a career crossroads that might turn the Gold Glove second baseman into a full-time utility infielder or lead to a fresh start with another team that might find more value in him as an every-day player again.
“He’s still a valuable player,” said Cubs manager Rick Renteria, who had Barney in his starting lineup for only the second time in a week Saturday night. “Nobody’s discounting his value. . . . He’s obviously shown that he can play second base on an every-day basis in Chicago, and he’s obviously a Gold Glover.
“As time goes on, we’ll all come to the conclusion as to how he will continue to be used.”
Barney, who slumped to .208 last season and was hitting only .175 in limited play through Friday, has repeatedly said he’ll embrace whatever role best helps the team win.
But even Renteria admits, “We’ve been using him probably not as much as any position player would want to be used.”
Luis Valbuena is hitting well, and leadoff man Emilio Bonifacio rotates in at second occasionally. So the plan is to make Barney as versatile as possible, said Renteria, who has kept an open line of communication with Barney throughout the process.
One of the few questions left is where he’ll be playing the day after the trade deadline.
One byproduct of a short-handed outfield hit by injuries in recent weeks is that young Junior Lake has been in the lineup more often. And one byproduct of that is he has become the club’s starting left fielder until further notice.
Through Friday, he had started nine of the Cubs’ previous 10 games, going 15-for-40 (.375) with seven extra-base hits, nine RBI and two walks. And the Cubs’ strikeout leader has stayed strikeout-free in six of those games as his average has climbed from .239 to .280 during the stretch.
“If there’s a situation that we think the matchup might be too skewed, we might try to help him out,” Renteria said, “but he’s making the adjustments that he needs to with whoever’s pitching. And that confidence is growing.
“Everybody’s kind of noticed. His focus has changed a little bit; his visual has changed a little bit. He’s trying to get pitchers to elevate a little bit more consistently with the fastball or breaking ball. And he’s having pretty good at-bats, driving the ball, hitting the ball the other way.”