Barney's Hard Work Starting to Show

NEW ORLEANS – Darwin Barney is enjoying a nice start to May after a sluggish start to the season. The right-handed hitting shortstop for Class AAA Iowa picked up his fifth straight multi-hit game in the team's 9-5 victory over New Orleans Wednesday and had raised his average from .218 at the end of April to .296 overall in 25 games.

Barney was a fourth-round Cubs draft pick from Oregon State in 2006 after helping the Beavers to two College World Series championships.

The 24-year-old infielder has hit well at every level in his career and is coming off a strong season at Class AA Tennessee, in which he batted .317 in 74 games to help earn another trip to major league spring training this past March.

In Wednesday's victory over New Orleans at Zephyr Field, Barney was 3-for-5 with a double and two sharply-hit singles. What did not show up in the box score was that he also hit two long drives to left, including an estimated 350-foot shot down the line that landed just foul in back of the left-field fence in the first inning.

But Barney, with eight home runs in over 1,110 career at-bats, has a long way to go before he's considered a power hitter, something he readily acknowledges.

"(Power) is not my game," he said. "That's not something I'm going to focus on. I'll juice a ball here or there, but I'm looking to make contact, move runners and do the little things (like) get on base and let guys like drive me in.

"I'll run into a few balls (but) I' m not necessarily looking inside trying to lift and separate. That's not my game, but I will be able to get my hands in there."

Barney says he is seeing the ball well and that he's started to slow some things down with his approach after a rough beginning.

"In April, I was trying to make some adjustments, trying to do a little more stuff with my top hand," he said. "I was talking with Yoda (Iowa hitting coach Von Joshua), and it was about going back to what's always been successful and what works for me. That's just standing back and letting the ball get deep and just trusting your hands. So for me, it was all about slowing the game down, seeing more pitches and not being so anxious."

With three hits Wednesday, Barney is now 8-for-20 in the course of his five-game hitting streak, which ties his longest of the season.

He said he was never concerned with the slow showing at the start of the year and that it takes more than 75 at-bats to make or break a season.

"I surprised myself a little bit by handling it OK," Barney said. "Obviously you get upset at yourself with your performance, but you just have to be patient with this game. You hit some balls hard and they go right at some people, and sometimes you don't have good at-bats. You just have to know you've got about 400 more at-bats.

"When the long months start coming, that's when you want to be honing in. You kind of throw your first 100 at-bats away and try to move on. I've been lucky to start swinging a little bit and hopefully our team starts winning a few more games."

And now that Barney is swinging a hot bat, don't expect him to get complacent.

Rather than grabbing a quick shower and getting dressed after Wednesday's game, the Cubs' shortstop grabbed his bat and sprinted toward the batting cages located under the stands to take in additional hitting practice.

Iowa hitting coach Von Joshua said that's just the type of player Barney is.

"He'll get out to the batting cage before and after the game," said Joshua. "He's very hard-working and a conscious young man, a very smart kid. He doesn't get complacent and always wants to improve. I think he's going to be a good ballplayer."

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