Barney relishing chance with winner

CHICAGO – Holding no grudges for being demoted -- and then traded -- former Chicago Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney returned to Wrigley Field for the first time with the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers, happy for the chance at postseason baseball.

“If I was in their position, I might have done the same thing with me too,” Barney said before Thursday night’s game. “It was weird at first. It’s just a different atmosphere. We expect to win, and if we don’t, we don’t cry about it, we get up the next day and try to win that day. It’s kind of a fun experience.”

Barney fell out of favor with Cubs fans as his batting average continued to dip after hitting a high of .276 in 2011. He hit .208 last season and .230 this year before being traded in July. He went from last place -- and the only organization he’s ever known -- to first place in a matter of days.

“The biggest difference is at this time of year a lot of guys are counting down the days,” Barney said of his former team. “It’s strange not to be counting down the days. I didn’t even know the season was over in 10 days. There’s still baseball ahead.

“It’s a little like a divorce. I’ve only known one thing. The unknown can be a little scary, but that’s baseball. That’s life. It’s going to happen to everybody, and it’s going to happen again.”

Barney knew the deal. The Cubs were rebuilding and weren’t exactly spending money on the big league club. As the team tanked, so did his offensive game. With top-end talent coming up behind him, Barney didn’t survive his own struggles and the Cubs couldn’t afford to keep a gold glove, no-hit player.

“The year after I was drafted I was sitting in the car with (former Cub) Steve Clevenger, sitting there saying ‘we have an opportunity to win a championship in Chicago someday.' That was my goal, and what I wanted for a long time.”

Like all former Cubs, he thought the chance to break the longest championship drought in sports was a special opportunity. It didn’t happen in Chicago, but he’s hoping it does in Los Angeles. He’s appeared in 15 games and hit his first home run with his new team on Wednesday. The Dodgers are stacked with talent and on the verge of returning to the playoffs.

“This team is a really good team,” he said. “I couldn’t believe how good we were when I got here. (Clayton) Kershaw is the best pitcher I’ve ever seen.”

At the end of the day, Barney is actually grateful the Cubs moved him when they did. They gave him a chance to play this season longer than any of his former teammates will.

“I have no hard feelings,” Barney stated. “They made it early enough that I could go to a contender.