CHICAGO -- The greatest compliment Darwin Barney could receive for his new fitness regimen is that manager Dale Sveum doesn’t plan on getting him any rest over the final two weeks.
So while other Cubs regulars will give way to bench players starting next week at Colorado, Barney will continue to get chances to take the field.
With 135 consecutive errorless games, Barney still needs six more to tie the major league record for consecutive errorless games from a second baseman. So Sveum could have that on his mind.
If Barney plays every day, and, of course, doesn’t make an error, he would tie the record after next Thursday’s game at Colorado. Placido Polanco had 141 consecutive errorless games at second in 2007 with the Detroit Tigers.
But it still looks as if Barney also will be allowed to pad the record if he continues to play mistake-free baseball.
“I don’t think Barney will be going anywhere in the lineup,” Sveum said. “I think we’ll get by with the day off Monday. I don’t think there’s a reason to give him any rest or anything. He’s battled through it and had a heck of a season.”
Barney wasn’t so good at battling through it last season when fatigue got the best of him. He continued to lose weight as the season dragged on and after a hot start at the plate, his production waned.
Starting this spring he started a new fitness program that went as far as to monitor his calorie and fluid intake. It seems to have worked.
Now if there was something he could do for the bumps and bruises. Barney admitted that his dedication to defense has required him to stop a number of hard-hit bouncers off his upper body, although he says the soreness is manageable.
It has been an all-around dedicated effort to put him on the cusp of a major-league record for defense as he continues to get as much possible out of his ability. In that way he isn’t unlike mighty-mite infielder David Eckstein, who played above what his talent suggested and won World Series titles with the Angels and Cardinals.
“I think that’s kind of what you put him in that category of an Eckstein-type guy,” Sveum said. “There are obviously other ones, but just a guy that knows he has to do those things well to play well, stay here and play every day. Obviously we want the (on-base plus slugging percentage) to be over .700 but that kind of defense is saving runs constantly every single day.”
Sveum remains confident that the offensive numbers will eventually come for Barney, who had a 13-game hit streak end this week, as well a stretch of 55-consecutive plate appearances where he didn’t strike out. It was the eighth longest such streak in the major leagues this season.
“Doing what he has been doing over the last few weeks will be fine,” Sveum said. “I’m sure he’s at about a .400 on-base percentage the last few weeks. It’s all a process sometimes. Everybody wants young guys to have on-base percentage but it doesn’t come until you’ve had your 2,000 at-bats in the major leagues or 4,000 at-bats in professional baseball.
“Everybody is a little different. But the scale of on-base percentage is not brought up by one-year players and 22-year-old kids. That’s not usually where it happens.”