Darwin Barney was back at Wrigley Field, but wearing a Dodgers uniform. The infielder, who was designated for assignment in July, and then signed with the Dodgers, had only known one team until he joined L.A. Was it strange being back at Wrigley on the visitor’s side?
“It’s not as weird as you would expect,” Barney said. “Wrigley is Wrigley. The visiting clubhouse feels a lot like the home side. The mentality is different [with the Dodgers]. We’re here to take four [games]. That’s our goal, to win every single day. That’s the way we play here.”
He did go from last place to first place.
“It was weird at first,” Barney said, “but it’s just a different atmosphere. We expect to win, and if we don’t, we don’t cry about it, and get up the next day and try to win that day.”
At this time of year, most players are counting the days until the season ends. Not the guys on teams headed to the postseason.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Barney said. “We’re right there. I think this team is a really good team. I couldn’t believe how good we were when I got here. It’s win, or go home for us. Every day we expect to win, whether we’re up or down in the game. [Clayton] Kershaw is the best pitcher I’ve ever seen.”
Kershaw, by the way, starts Friday against the Cubs and will be going for his 20th win.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” Barney said of the left-hander. “The way he goes about his business, the stuff he has — I ask him about his repertoire all the time to gain information. He’s a stand-up guy, he’s one of our leaders and he’s obviously making history. It’s been a long time since someone has had a sub 2.00 ERA two years in a row, and he might be around 1.60. It’s pretty amazing.”
Barney said he has no hard feelings toward the Cubs.
“They’re doing what’s best for this team, and if I was in their position, I might have done the same thing with me at that point,” he said. “They made the move early enough so I could go to a contender, so I’m sitting in a pretty good spot now.”
He does follow his friends on the team.
“I miss those guys,” Barney said. “When you hear that guys like [Anthony] Rizzo is missing time because he’s hurt, you worry and you wonder. With [Starlin] Castro, it’s the same thing. I care about these guys and their lives and their families and not just baseball. It makes me happy when I get to see guys like Rizzo and Castro.”
— Carrie Muskat
Darwin Barney is back in Chicago with the Dodgers for a four-game series at Wrigley Field, which opens Thursday. It’s time to update where some former Cubs players are now:
* Jeff Samardzija
Cubs: 2-7, 2.83 ERA in 17 starts
A’s: 4-5, 3.13 ERA in 14 starts
Samardzija has 10 quality starts in his 14 outings with the A’s, and he has not given up a run over 15 innings in his last two starts, but did not get a decision in either. On Wednesday, he struck out 10 and held the Rangers to four hits over eight scoreless innings, but the A’s lost, 6-1. If the season ended today, Samardzija and the A’s are in the playoffs.
* Jason Hammel
Cubs: 8-5, 2.98 ERA in 17 starts
A’s: 2-6, 4.76 ERA in 11 starts
Hammel hasn’t had the same success as Samardzija, and struggled in July (1-4, 7.83 ERA). His only win in July came with the Cubs on the day he was traded — a 7-2 victory over the Nationals when he gave up two runs over six innings. Hammel recently left the team to be with his wife for the birth of their second child. In case you forgot, Samardzija and Hammel were dealt to the A’s for Addison Russell, Billy McKinney, Dan Straily and a player to be named later.
* Darwin Barney
Cubs: .230/.265/.328, 2 HR, 16 RBIs in 72 games
Dodgers: .273/.448/.455, 1 HR, 5 RBIs in 15 games
Barney hit a two-run homer on Wednesday for the Dodgers. Traded on July 28 for right-handed pitcher Jonathan Martinez, Barney was not promoted to the Dodgers until Aug. 10.
* Nate Schierholtz
Cubs: .192/.240/.300, 6 HRs, 33 RBIs in 99 games
Nationals: .179/.207/.286, 1 HR, 2 RBIs in 15 games
Schierholtz was released on Aug. 13, and signed with the Nats five days later. His team is headed to the playoffs.
* James Russell
Cubs: 0-2, 3.51 ERA, 44 games
Braves: 0-0, 3.38 ERA in 18 games
Left-handed hitters have apparently figured Russell out, batting .291 against the southpaw this year. He’s held right-handers to a .160 batting average. In 2013, those numbers were reversed as Russell held lefties to a .183 average, and right-handers hit .321 off him.
* Emilio Bonifacio
Cubs: .279/.318/.373, 2 HRs, 18 RBIs in 69 games
Braves: .236/.277/.281, 0 HR, 2 RBIs in 32 games
Bonifacio was traded July 31 to the Braves along with James Russell for Victor Caratini, who batted .264 in 14 games with Class A Kane County after hitting .279 in 87 games at Class A Rome. For the year, Caratini hit .277 in 101 games with five homers, 22 doubles and 55 RBIs.
* Jose Veras
Cubs: 0-1, 8.10 ERA, 0-for-2 in save opportunities, 12 games
Astros: 4-0, 2.25 ERA, 1-for-4 in save opportunities in 30 games
Veras, expected to be the Cubs closer, was sidelined with a strained left oblique until May 14, then released on June 10. He signed a Minor League contract with the Astros five days later, and has thrived.
The Cubs will get Minor League right-handed pitcher Jonathan Martinez from the Dodgers to complete the trade for Darwin Barney. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale first reported the transaction Wednesday. The Dodgers confirmed the move in a release. Martinez, 20, was 7-5 with a 3.47 ERA in 19 starts at Class A Great Lakes in the Midwest League. He’s struck out 91 over 106 1/3 innings and walked 19.
The Cubs dealt Barney, a 2012 Gold Glove winning second baseman, on Monday, and he was expected to join the Dodgers on Wednesday. Barney was batting .230 in 72 games with Chicago, and had seen his playing time diminish with the arrival of rookie Arismendy Alcantara.
— Carrie Muskat
The Cubs traded Darwin Barney and cash consideration to the Dodgers for a player to be named later. The Cubs had designated Barney for assignment on July 22 when Emilio Bonifacio was activated from the disabled list. They’ve decided to go with Arismendy Alcantara and Bonifacio at second for now. The Cubs players will get to see Barney this weekend when they travel to Los Angeles for a three-game series.
— Carrie Muskat
The Cubs play their home opener on Friday at Wrigley Field, facing the Phillies.
“Opening Day at Wrigley is always special,” second baseman Darwin Barney said. “You have Bill Murray running around the bases – that’s something you don’t see anywhere else. They probably don’t allow it anywhere else. There’s always something memorable there. You can almost see the whole season ahead of you in the ivy. You’re waiting for it to turn green. It was a little warmer last year and it was a little spotty green early. This year, I have a feeling it’ll be really dark.”
Wrigley was buried under a record snowfall this winter, however, the snow will be gone by Friday’s first pitch.
“I think we’re all looking forward to going home,” Barney said.
Murray, by the way, was to throw a ceremonial first pitch on April 5, 2012, and took advantage of the moment, and sprinted around the bases.
— Carrie Muskat
One of the perks of the Cubs’ new complex in Mesa is that there’s room for a Ping-Pong table, and there have been some competitive matches. One of the top players so far in camp is Darwin Barney, who has beaten Jake Arrieta four times and won two out of three best-of-five series against Anthony Rizzo.
“Riz and I both use it as a warm up for our eyes,” Barney said. “It’s very valuable for hand-eye coordination.”
It gets the competitive juices going, too.
— Carrie Muskat
The Cubs have day-night, split-squad games Tuesday, beginning with a day game at Cubs Park in Mesa against the Angels. Darnell McDonald was in the lineup, but now Albert Almora will be the DH. The game will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet. Here’s the updated lineup:
Starlin Castro is running out of time if he is going to be ready by Opening Day. The Cubs shortstop did run the bases on Thursday and is making good progress, Rick Renteria said on Friday. This Sunday will be the three-week mark since Castro suffered a strained right hamstring. There’s no time set for when Castro can get into a Cactus League game or even a Minor League game to get at-bats.
“We’re trying to get him some at-bats, possibly in the Minor Leagues first, leading off, things of that nature, and trying to get him in baseball shape,” Renteria said Friday. “He’s been doing a lot of activity but getting him out there, standing, playing five, six innings is important to us. We’re going to try to progress him as quickly as possible.”
Do the Cubs have a backup plan?
“Not even a consideration at this point,” Renteria said. “He’s doing well.”
However, the Cubs have had Darwin Barney play shortstop and also have Emilio Bonifacio and Donnie Murphy as options there.
“Right now, it’s Friday, and [Castro] went through everything extremely well, and I have nine days left,” Renteria said. “I’ve got to set up a schedule for him to participate before we can determine [if he’ll be ready].”
Castro is coming off a disappointing season in which he batted .245, and has said he wants to get back to being the player who was named to the All-Star team and led the league in hits.
“He’s a guy who we all know physically we have to get in a particular type of shape,” Renteria said. “Mentally, if he’s in a good state of mind, anybody who has a sense of confidence and focus and determination, you have the ability to do a lot of things. Hopefully that will play into his ability to overcome this little setback that’s occurred this spring.”
Renteria called it a “little setback” but last spring, Castro strained his left hamstring, and only missed two weeks. He’s been out nearly three this year.
“I know he wants to play,” Renteria said. “It affected him, he hated this setback this spring, obviously. He wants to show everybody and have a comeback type season. He looks like he’s ready to get back out there on the field.”
— Carrie Muskat
Starlin Castro says he’s making progress and can make up for lost time with at-bats in the Minor Leagues. Castro has been sidelined since March 2 with a strained right hamstring. He did not run on Wednesday but took ground balls and will take batting practice. It’s been a difficult spring for Castro, who spent three weeks in the Dominican Republic with the team strength coach and trained another four weeks in Florida.
“That’s still in my mind — a big year, that’s still in my mind,” Castro said. “It doesn’t go away. It’s frustrating because I came here 100 percent and get hurt and that’s why I’m frustrated. The good year that I want to have this year, it’s not going away, it stays in my mind and I think it’ll be a good year.”
He will not have another MRI on his hamstring.
If Castro isn’t ready on Opening Day, the Cubs could move Darwin Barney to short and insert Emilio Bonifacio at second.
— Carrie Muskat
Ryan Sweeney’s right knee soreness apparently isn’t too serious. The outfielder is in the Cubs lineup Tuesday for their game against the Rockies at Cubs Park. Sweeney felt some discomfort during a play Sunday in right. Travis Wood gets the start. The game will be available on webcast on Cubs.com. Here’s the lineup:
T. Wood P