Notes: Barney still key on his day off
CHICAGO – What started out as a mental day off for second baseman Darwin Barney instead became only a brief reprieve from the daily grind.
Barney originally was given Saturday off to regroup but entered the game in the eighth inning as a defensive replacement at second base for Jeff Baker. Manager Dalve Sveum was hesitant to take him out of the lineup, even though it was only one game, because of the stability he provides defensively.
“People just don’t realize the other things he brings,” Sveum said. “The constant turning of the double play. There aren’t probably too many second basemen that go for the pop ups and catch the pop ups like he does either so there are a lot of things that go [unnoticed]. Knowing exactly where to play every hitter, paying attention to the details and all that has been incredible.”
Barney has struggled offensively in July hitting .232 with three extra-base hits and four RBI in 22 games. He’s proven too valuable defensively for Sveum to consider other options. He has committed just one error at second in 448 chances and leads his position with a .998 fielding percentage. Barney owns an 86 game (687 innings) errorless streak dating to the eighth inning April 17 in Miami.
“I would hate to think anybody has played better second base this year than he has,” Sveum said. “There is no question about Gold Glove and the way he’s played would warrant a Gold Glove. He’s been as good as I’ve seen for 100 games.”
Divisional showdown: In an odd scheduling quirk, the Cubs are getting to know two of their NL Central Division foes very well.
The Cubs are in the middle of playing 12 total games against the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals, who they beat 3-2 Friday at Wrigley Field. While the Cubs are already out of playoff contention they have a chance to play spoiler as the Pirates and Cardinals challenge for the division title.
The Pirates visit Wrigley for a three-game series starting Monday.
“You really can measure yourself against those teams,” pitcher Jeff Samardzija said. “That’s what we want to do. We want to play hard every day. We don’t know our record, we don’t know where we’re at. It’s just every day we know the guy we’re facing and who is pitching for us. I really like how we’re playing baseball right now. It’s fun to come to the park.”
Garza update: Pitcher Matt Garza remains on track for a return to the rotation late next week, potentially in Los Angeles.
He threw on flat ground Saturday and will have a bullpen session Monday after which he will be evaluated. Also on Garza’s schedule is the birth of his fourth child Tuesday when his wife will be induced.
“Everything is gradually progressing,” Sveum said. “He’s doing much better and we’ll try to get him out there late next week but everything is going really well. It looks like right now, if I had to say, it should happen but everything is just getting better each day. That’s looking pretty good.”
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