Barney designated for assignment as Bonifacio returns
Cubs cut 2012 NL Gold Glove-winner; Alcantara also in mix for playing time at second
CHICAGO -- A Gold Glove winner in 2012, Darwin Barney has had no problems in the field, but has struggled offensively, and on Tuesday, the Cubs designated the second baseman for assignment to make room for Emilio Bonifacio, who was activated from the disabled list.
It was a tough day for the Cubs' players, including first baseman Anthony Rizzo, to lose one of their friends.
"It's a business, and with all due respect to our front office and everyone else in front offices around the league, at the end of the day, we're pieces, we're pawn pieces and we have no say," Rizzo said after Tuesday's 6-0 win over the Padres. "We all wish Darwin the best. Hopefully this will be good for his career, which I think it will be. He's the best human I've ever played with -- unselfish. Hopefully he goes to a better team, a winning team, and can contend."
Rizzo and Barney have been together since the first baseman joined the Cubs in 2012.
"Talking on the bench, on the bus, on the plane, on the road, talking at second base every day -- there's a lot of things," Rizzo said of the second baseman. "He's a great player, a great person. He'll be fine."
Barney, 28, was batting .230 with 10 doubles, two triples, two home runs and 16 RBIs in 72 games this season. He won the Gold Glove in 2012 after tying a Major League single-season record with 141 consecutive errorless games. But his offense has not been able to keep up with his defensive skills. He batted .254 in 2012, and .208 last season. Since making his big league debut with the Cubs in 2010, Barney has batted .244 with 88 doubles, 18 home runs and 146 RBIs in 542 games.
"I think he got out of whack mechanically last year," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "I think he'd be the first person to admit that. He got pull happy and struggled to get back to what he'd been. I think he can get back there. A change of scenery and maybe an offseason, I think he can get back to that. He's at his best as a pesky player, hitting balls the other way. When guys get pull happy and power happy, it can hurt him."
The Cubs plan on having Bonifacio and rookie Arismendy Alcantara share second base. Alcantara has made six starts at second since he was promoted from Triple-A Iowa when Barney went on paternity leave July 9. Alcantara was batting .286 in eight games prior to Tuesday's series opener against the Padres.
Bonifacio, 29, was sidelined with a right oblique strain since June 13. In seven rehab games, the switch-hitter batted .269 (7-for-26), including a four-hit performance Sunday in his final game for Double-A Tennessee.
The Cubs told Bonifacio to take his time.
"They said, 'It depends on how you feel -- we don't want to rush you,'" Bonifacio said.
He tested his oblique in the Minors.
"I made a swing one day at a slider in the dirt and made a double play when I had to make a low throw and I was good to go," Bonifacio said.
Despite his offensive struggles, Barney had the most starts at second base this season (55 games) compared to Bonifacio (19) and Luis Valbuena (17).
"It's a tough day and I'm sure he'll land on his feet," manager Rick Renteria said of Barney. "I'm sure he'll be OK. ... You're always surprised. Any player playing for any club is taken aback by it."
With Barney's departure, shortstop Starlin Castro and reliever James Russell now have the longest time with the Cubs, both joining the team in 2010. Hoyer said he hoped to match Barney with a team in need of a middle infielder.
"He's a guy we have so much respect for as a person," Hoyer said of Barney. "I think he's a really good baseball player, and a winning player, as he showed in college. He can do a lot of things on the field to help a winning team.
"He got in a position here where playing time started to be scarce for him, whether it was Valbuena, Bonifacio or Alcantara, and that necessitated the move," Hoyer said. "It certainly wasn't easy. He's a great guy, and a great competitor. I'm hoping that in this process we can get him to a place where he can help a contender and get a feel for a pennant race."