Barney Takes Heady Approach In Triple-A




CHICAGO—Chess anyone?

Shortstop Darwin Barney already had the Cubs' attention for his fielding. And his solid hitting (.270 average heading into this season) in 172 minor league games didn't hurt his chances for a quick climb up the organizational ladder.

Barney, a fourth-round pick in 2007 out of Oregon State, made his first venture above Class A in 2009 and hit .317/.368/.401 in 252 at-bats with Double-A Tennessee to earn a promotion to Triple-A Iowa.

That's when things got a little tough at the plate for the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Barney. He hit just .163/.200/.186 in his first 11 games.

It was time to start thinking. Almost like a chess player. Rather than panic and make some mechanical changes, Barney decided to stick to what he was doing and take a more cerebral approach to the plate.

"I came out with a plan to work on the offensive part of my game this year," Barney said. "I came out and swung the bat well. After the promotion, the level of the game changes, but it's still you versus the pitcher. I've been trying to get back to feeling comfortable up there, hitting the ball hard and letting things happen.

"At this level, you have to make adjustments pitch-by-pitch. On the lower levels, you can adjust at-bat to at-bat or game to game. But now it's more pitch to pitch."

Barney took his advice to heart and had a nice nine-game run in August, in which he went 13-for-32 to lift his average with the I-Cubs to .270/.343/.375.

Farm director Oneri Fleita had a hunch Barney's plate struggles would be brief. Fleita likes the 23-year-old's overall makeup.

"He's got a steady glove and he's a steady-Eddie guy," Fleita said. "Double-A, Triple-A and the big leagues will probably be no different. But hitting will be a good challenge for him. He's played at a high-level college. He's been to the College World Series. We feel like this is a great opportunity for him. He's a very polished young man and very mature.

"He's way ahead of his years as far as playing the game."

Cubbyhole

• Carlos Zambrano's rehab with low Class A Peoria brought out a huge crowd (a season-high 7,604) and some extra media members. That's a good opportunity for prospects to shine, and second baseman Ryan Flaherty went 2-for-4 and drove in his 70th run of the season.

• Outfielder Brett Jackson, the Cubs' first-round pick in June, was hitting .308/.395/.548 with six home runs and 16 RBIs in 104 at-bats with Peoria.