CHICAGO -- Darwin Barney's glove is now solid gold.
On Tuesday, Barney was named the National League's top defensive second baseman, winning his first Rawlings Gold Glove Award. The Cubs infielder won the honor over the Reds' Brandon Phillips and the Diamondbacks' Aaron Hill.
"I'm extremely thrilled," Barney said late Tuesday. "It's something you came into the season working towards, but it's not something where I thought the results would be there as quickly as they were. I'm extremely happy about it. There's a lot of good competition. I'm really surprised it ended up happening for me. It's an exciting night for me."
Not bad for someone who was primarily a shortstop and didn't become the Cubs' full-time second baseman until 2011.
"I felt the transition would happen eventually," Barney said. "I didn't think it would be as smooth as it was."
He recalled a conversation a couple years ago with Al Geddes, who was the scout who signed Barney, a fourth-round pick in 2007. Barney admitted then that as much as he loved playing shortstop, he thought he could win a Gold Glove at second base someday.
"It's funny that three years down the road, it happened," Barney said.
Barney is the first Cubs player to win a Gold Glove since first baseman Derrek Lee in 2007, and the first second baseman to do so since Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg won his ninth and final such trophy in 1991.
"It goes without saying he's Gold Glove material," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Barney. "I've been in the game 30 years, and I've never seen anyone play second base like [Barney] has. I was very fortunate to be around who I consider the best I'd ever seen at that position in Jimmy Gantner in Milwaukee. He was another guy who was under the radar because of his offense.
"I think Barney is better than that. He puts everything into the package, going for popups down the right-field line, double plays, the range -- he has so many different things in his tool box. It's not just a guy catching the ball, routine balls -- he was spectacular all season."
Phillips had won the Gold Glove three times in the last four years, but he apparently got a heads up that he would not collect another trophy. The Reds' infielder tweeted earlier: "My 2012 Season/Postseason was GOOD ... but NOT GOOD enough: No #AllStar + No #GoldGlove + No #SilverSlugger + No #WSRing = #MOTIVATION."
Both Phillips and Hill finished with a .992 fielding percentage, while Barney had the best mark among NL second basemen at .997, committing just two errors. Barney's fielding percentage also set a Cubs record for a single season by a second baseman, topping Sandberg's previous high of .995 set in '91.
The Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners were determined by votes cast by each Major League manager and up to six coaches on their staffs. They picked from a pool of qualified players in their respective league, and they could not vote for players on their own team.
Barney starred during his streak, playing in 141 error-free games, which tied a Major League single-season record for second basemen set in 2007 by Placido Polanco. Barney was three outs away from setting the mark before he was charged with a throwing error in the eighth inning Sept. 28 against the Diamondbacks.
Barney, who turns 27 on Nov. 8, does own all NL marks for consecutive errorless games at second base, surpassing Sandberg's former record 123-game errorless streak, allowing for multiple seasons, that ran from June 21, 1989-May 17, 1990. David Eckstein owned the previous NL single-season mark of 113 consecutive games set with San Diego in 2010.
Barney's 141-game errorless streak at second base spanned 1,154 1/3 innings since his only other miscue this year at second base, April 17 in Miami.
His streak featured more total chances per nine innings (5.30) than any other second baseman in baseball. During the 141 games, Barney also had more putouts (293) than anyone else in that span. The White Sox's Gordon Beckham was next closest at 259. Barney's 676 total chances trailed only Hill (687).
Sandberg was an integral part of Barney's development. The Hall of Famer was Barney's manager in the Minor Leagues for three seasons. When shortstop Starlin Castro was promoted from Double-A to the big leagues in May 2010, Barney was passed over. At that time, he was the shortstop at Triple-A under Sandberg. Barney and Sandberg would then work out each day at second to learn that position.
"'Ryno' meant a lot," Barney said. "When Starlin got called up from Double-A and I was at Triple-A, Ryno was really one of the guys who kept me confident in my ability and that there was a spot for me in the big leagues someday. We worked numerous times at second base even though I played shortstop every day [for Iowa]."
Sandberg did contact Barney after the errorless streak ended, sending a text message.
"He told me how proud he was and that he wouldn't have anyone but me do that," Barney said. "It was a really nice text."
Pat Listach, who was the Cubs' infield coach and also helped Barney make the transition from shortstop to second, said the infielder showed a desire to be the best, and his work ethic paid off.
"He wants to make every play, and he's not afraid to make plays," Listach said of Barney. "You want that at every position."
Barney joked that the thing he had to work on this offseason was to correct the mistakes made on the two errors he was charged with in 2012.
"From top to bottom, you have to continue to work on your routine plays and being consistent," he said. "You know you're not going to run into a streak defensively every single year -- or I guess not very often at all. You want to be as consistent as you can and keep working. You can't be satisfied.
"Winning Gold Gloves doesn't satisfy me for the future. It makes me proud of my season. It makes me hungry to work and try to get another one someday. ... It's been a long path. It's a big accomplishment for me."