MESA, Ariz. -- While pleased that Dale Sveum praised his strength, Darwin Barney's goal is to have his new manager saying the same thing come August and September.
There was no denying Barney’s slow fade last season as the first-year player watched his numbers fall on both the stat sheet and the scale. The Chicago Cubs second baseman started last spring training at 185 pounds, was at 173 by the All-Star break and weighed 170 when the season concluded.
His batting average by month: April .236, May .296, June .246, July .276, August .255 and September .244.
“You have one shot and one window in this game and my thought was, ‘Why not now. Let’s try to get better, let’s do what I have to do,’” Barney said about an intense workout regimen designed to add muscle weight. “I tried to put that weight on that I lost and add a little more so that when I did lose some in spring training, that I was at the weight I wanted to be at.”
So far so good as Barney entered camp at 190 pounds and has yet to see a dip. He had already lost seven pounds at this point last spring.
Sveum might have only watched Barney play around 20 games last season when he was the Milwaukee Brewers hitting coach, but he has already seen a difference. Sveum called certain aspects of Barney’s game one of the highlights in the early part of camp, from the way the ball has been jumping off his bat to a quick first step.
It hasn’t hurt Barney that his manager was also a middle infielder during his playing days and the two have worked together closely so far in camp.
“He’s still learning second base, so there are some things I have talked to him about that I think will help him out around the bag and free him up,” Sveum said. “The ball is coming off his bat really well. I’ve been really impressed. He’s one of those ultimate professionals that’s going to try and make himself a better player every day and that’s what you want on a team.”
Barney has been more than willing to soak in the extra instruction.
“I’ve really learned a lot,” he said. “We have been communicating a lot about it, just having different kinds of things in your toolbox and that’s what he’s big on, being able to turn all kinds of different double plays and primarily things I haven’t really learned or looked at.
“That’s one of the things I wanted to do coming into camp was to become more knowledgeable with the position. It was fairly new to me last year and there were plays I came upon that I hadn’t experienced before so we’re working hard around the bag and trying to get better.”