Barney embraces plum spot in lineup

MESA, Ariz. -- Darwin Barney isn’t afraid to admit to the obvious benefit of hitting second in the Chicago Cubs lineup.

“It’s obviously nice to hit in front of a guy like Starlin [Castro],” Barney said of his teammate, who will open the season as the team’s No. 3 hitter. “He’s an accomplished hitter and hopefully we can get on base for guys behind us.”

But it isn’t as if Barney feels he needs to lean on Castro’s presence to get the job done. He’s supremely confident in his own right, ready to do whatever it takes to have success from a spot in the order when sacrificing yourself for the common good of the team is preferred.

“Whatever the situation is, that’s the kind of guy I want to be,” Barney said. “If there is nobody on, I’m trying to get on. And if there are guys on base, I want to move them or drive them in so it simplifies things for me when I think about it that way and you don’t worry about it too much.”

He is also aware of the criticisms of his game, that he doesn’t work counts enough for a No. 2 hitter, that his on-base percentage is low for somebody so high up in the lineup and that his walk totals (22 last season) are paltry.

“I’m not up there trying to walk,” Barney said. “I’m not up there trying to do anything but win that at-bat. If guys are going to throw me strikes, fortunately I don’t swing and miss that much so I’m going to put the ball in play.”

Indeed his strikeout totals are relatively low. In 571 plate appearances last season he struck out 67 times. While a decent number, he still has work to do to reach his desired strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1-to-1.

“You can get on base a lot of different ways than just walking,” Barney said. “You want to be aggressive and you don’t want to be tentative. The walks will come. I’m not too worried about that, and I don’t think anyone else is. If they feel that way they’ll let me know.”

Helping the situation is that Barney was able to fall into a regular routine this spring as opposed to last year when he was simply scrambling to win a job and trying to showcase himself at every turn.

“It’s been easier to get into a routine and easier to time all your workouts,” he said. “It was good. But spring training is about confidence, building it and getting ready for Opening Day. You want to build confidence coming into spring and you just want to build on that going into Opening Day. I think that I have done that, and as a team I think everybody’s feeling that way.”