CHICAGO – Second baseman Darwin Barney’s dedication to improving his game doesn’t go unnoticed by his teammates or coaches.
But Cubs manager Dale Sveum suggested before Saturday’s 6-4 loss to the Reds that Barney might be tinkering too much with his swing. Barney went 0 for 3 in the loss dropping his average to .169. Sveum said he worked with Barney during spring training to develop a good approach and fix his mechanics, but he “kind of abandoned it.”
“I think he needs to try and stick with one thing and go with that,” Sveum said. “There’s a lot of changing going on every single day.”
Barney’s struggles partially stem from an inability to consistently hit fastballs, which Sveum considers the No. 1 thing a hitter must do in order to be successful.
“He’s been good lately laying off pitches and getting his walks, but we all know there’s that fine line,” Sveum said. “Then balls get too deep and you’re 0-2 and had two really good pitches to hit.”
Soriano’s big day: Alfonso Soriano needed only two at-bats Saturday against the Reds to match his offensive production this season.
Soriano hit two two-run homers in the first and third innings off Reds lefty Tony Cingrani to give the Cubs a 4-2 lead. Soriano’s four-RBI game surpassed the three RBIs he had in the previous 28 games (108 at-bats).
“I know that I had a bad April, but never give up,” Soriano said. “I’m always working hard to get better every day. I know myself, and I know sooner or later I want to have a good day like today.”
Navarro’s pinch-hitting success: Catcher Dioner Navarro hasn’t logged many innings behind the plate, but he’s been a blessing for Sveum off the bench.
Navarro is 5 for 9 (.556) when pinch hitting this season, and Sveum believes a lot of that success stems from his personality. Two of Navarro’s three home runs this season have come during pinch-hit at-bats.
“He’s not a guy that’s up there thinking a lot, but he’s also a guy that can make adjustments and can hit a fastball,” Sveum said. “[Friday against the Reds] you could tell he was making an adjustment to get on top of the baseball. Not just swinging the bat, he was making an adjustment to get on top.”
His success off the bench hasn’t carried over into the games he starts. Navarro is hitting .077 (2 for 26) in seven games as the starting catcher. Sveum said it’s “kind of weird” how well Navarro has hit when entering the game off the bench but not during starts.
“Starters,” Sveum said, "since they have four pitches, sometimes you get caught [thinking], 'OK he might throw this way, he might throw that one,' and off the bench you’re geared up for the fastball, and what happens, happens."