Cubs' Barney Just Finds A Way
CHICAGO—Darwin Barney was goaded into making a grand arrival for a morning workout on the Cubs' final Sunday in Arizona. He ran onto the field, turned a cartwheel and did a backward flip in the air.
A former high school gymnast, Barney still knows how to get air. He also knows how to get on base and make plays. That's how he emerged as one of the pleasant surprises of the Cubs' spring training.
Barney got his feet wet with a 30-game stint in the big leagues last season, after Mike Quade had replaced Lou Piniella as manager, but was viewed as mostly a utility player when camp began. He played well enough to be tabbed as the Opening Day starter at second base, where veterans Jeff Baker and Blake DeWitt were expected to split time.
Barney, a former Oregon State shortstop, hit .340 during spring training to replace Baker in the second-base timeshare.
"There were a lot of guys who had good camps," Quade said. "He and Baker had great camps and they both earned a chance to play."
Barney is considered more of a glue player than a high-ceiling prospect. "You look at his history, and the thing you see is that his teams usually win," Cubs farm director Oneri Fleita said. "He may not be one of the guys who everybody is looking at, but he's always in the middle of something. It happens over and over."
Because of his experience down the stretch in 2010, Barney didn't arrive in spring training with wide eyes.
"The main thing was it helped me with was feeling comfortable in the clubhouse," Barney said. "Feeling comfortable in the clubhouse makes it a lot easier to go on the field feeling the same way."
Barney hadn't played much second base in the minors, serving as the regular shortstop on his teams. He was viewed as a backup plan to Starlin Castro in 2010, and with Castro established it was time to get Barney experience elsewhere. He received something of a crash course at second base in spring training, with special attention paid to avoiding baserunners on the double-play pivot.
"I feel comfortable everywhere," Barney said. "That was the main thing this offseason—I was trying to get work at second base and get comfortable there just because I felt so uncomfortable last year."
• The Cubs released 2008 second-round pick Aaron Shafer, a righthander who signed for $625,000.
• Following a strong spring training, 2010 first-round pick Hayden Simpson started his pro career with low Class A Peoria. Simpson did not pitch last season because he was battling mononucleosis.