Gonzalez Emerges As Competition For Cubs' Barney






CHICAGO—Shortstop Darwin Barney has been tracking toward the big leagues since he pulled on a uniform at Oregon State.

He twice led the Beavers to College World Series titles, and he has been in the middle of winning minor league teams since his selection in the fourth round of the 2007 draft.

A .286 career hitter in the minors, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Barney lacks the power or speed to be considered an elite prospect. But he showed his value by helping the Cubs finish strong when he was promoted from Triple-A Iowa last August, about the same time that Mike Quade replaced Lou Piniella as manager.

Quade is going to need a backup for shortstop Starlin Castro in 2011, and Barney fits that mold. He may have a little bit of unexpected competition, however, as switch-hitting Marwin Gonzalez has jump-started his stalled career since a promotion to Double-A Tennessee last season.

Mostly a utility man when playing alongside Castro at high Class A Daytona in 2009, Gonzalez became a full-time shortstop again at Tennessee and the results were impressive. The 21-year-old Venezuelan, who signed with the Cubs in 2005, had a huge winter for Caracas, batting .324/.412/.419 in 210 at-bats.

Like Barney, Gonzalez could wind up as the starting shortstop at Triple-A Iowa in 2011. His value to the Cubs is either as a utility player or possibly as a trading chip, however.

Gonzalez's chief virtue is versatility, should Quade decide to go with a player for the position Joe Maddon calls SU (short for super utility). He's considered a strong fielder at shortstop but played 10-plus games at five different positions for Daytona in 2009, including center field as well as second and third base.

Barney, 25, played all over the infield after joining the Cubs. He had nine starts at shortstop, five at second base and four at third base. He hit a soft .241/.294/.291, managing only four doubles in 79 at-bats.

"He's a solid player," Quade said. "When you watch him, you see him doing a lot of things right. He's an interesting player."

Cubbyhole

• Former big league catchers Brian Harper (Tennessee) and Mark Johnson (short-season Boise) are joining the Cubs organization with managerial jobs. Bill Dancy will replace Ryne Sandberg at Triple-A Iowa after being named Southern League manager of the year at Tennessee in 2009.

• Trainer Bob Grimes was assigned to Boise for 2011, which will be his 27th season in the organization. He had spent the last three seasons with Daytona.