Baby is a welcome break from long grind for Chicago rookie

(EDITOR'S NOTE: On Wednesday afternoon, the Barneys welcomed daughter Zoey, 8 pounds, 4 ounces, into the world. "Everybody's doing great," Darwin Barney says.)

CHICAGO - By the time you read this, God willing, Darwin Barney has become a father again.

The rookie second baseman of the Chicago Cubs flew to Portland on Wednesday morning to be with his wife, Lindsay, who was to bear the couple's second child at Good Samaritan Hospital.

By Wednesday night, Lindsay was to be induced and daughter Zoey brought into the world.

For Barney, it meant missing Wednesday's game against Cincinnati at Wrigley Field. The Cubs have an off day Thursday, and he'll fly to New York and meet up with his team Friday to begin a series with the Mets.

'I'm excited to get home, see the family and be with Lindsay and our new baby,' the former Southridge High and Oregon State standout said Tuesday before the Cubs' game against the Reds.

'It's a breather for me. Having a baby feels like a break. It's less stressful.'

When I asked if his wife feels the same way, Barney just grinned.

Nice to see the youngster smiling. It has been a rough last few weeks for Barney, 25, the lynchpin of Oregon State's 2006 and '07 national championship runs.

'I never knew what the 'dog days of summer' meant until this year,' he said.

After going 0 for 1 in Chicago's 4-2, 13-inning loss to the Reds on Tuesday, Barney's average has fallen to .275.

That was after a scintillating start that saw him hit .325 and win National League rookie-of-the-month honors in April. Barney hit .296 in May, was still over .300 for the season in mid-July and was at .296 on Aug. 20.

In the 15 games since then, Barney has gone only 6 for 52.

'I've hit some bumps,' he said. 'You expect that when you play this game. It's one of the hardest games to play, and you're playing at the highest level.

'The toughest part is not being hard on yourself, not setting such high expectations of yourself. Instead of thinking about how things haven't been going well for me, I'm trying to focus on the team.'

First-year Cubs manager Mike Quade has been loyal to Barney, playing him nearly every day and normally using him as the team's No. 2 hitter. The 5-10, 185-pound Barney has rewarded him with a solid performance at the plate and strong - sometimes sensational - defense at second.

In 125 games, Barney has 127 hits - third-best on the team behind Starlin Castro and Aramis Ramirez - 58 runs, 19 doubles, five triples, two home runs and eight stolen bases.

'Darwin has had a marvelous first year,' Quade said Tuesday. 'But it's like with a lot of young kids at this point in the season - he's tired. We've given him some days off. I'll try to be more careful with him down the stretch. We have some people to back him up.

'When you're a high-energy guy and play with everything you've got all day long like he does, it's a long season, and it can wear on you. He doesn't look tired, he doesn't feel tired, but mentally, it's been a tough grind.'

Barney acknowledges as much.

'It's my rookie year. They say this is the hardest year of your professional career,' he said. 'I'm exhausted mentally. My body's OK. The long grind is what's tough. But I'm doing fine. I'll just try to finish strong.'

Barney has taken a little extra batting practice over the last week, but hasn't changed his approach.

'I'm working hard, but not any harder than I have been all year,' he said. 'Pitchers are going to make adjustments, and guys are going to go through slumps. That's just how the game is.'

Barney has suffered through slumps before.

'I just take it one day at a time, like I have all year,' he says. 'Every day you wake up with a positive attitude, excited to come to the park, and hopefully you leave that way. But it has been a long season. The team has struggled.'

At spring training in Arizona, Barney said he felt the Cubs could contend for the NL Central crown. It has not worked out that way. They are 61-81 and 23 1/2 games behind division-leading Milwaukee, in no small part to a pitching staff that is next-to-last in the league in ERA at 4.44.

Barney, of course, has been a winner from his Little League days. Has the Cubs' unsuccessful campaign has worn on him, too?

'I've always been driven by winning,' he said. 'That's what's got me going. When that wasn't happening early … you have to find ways to come home happy. I'd get a couple of hits and we'd lose and I'd be really hard on myself.'

Barney, who hit .241 in 30 late-season games with the Cubs in 2010, entered spring training trying to win a roster spot. He played so well he earned the starting job on opening day, and he has held it.

'If you'd told me then that I'd take a .285 average into the last month of the season, I'd have been ecstatic,' he said with a nod. 'You have to put it in perspective. I've had a good year.'

Barney has enjoyed playing at legendary Wrigley and hopes to have a long career with his current club.

'My heart's with the Cubs,' he said. 'They drafted me. I can't imagine myself playing anywhere else, though the odds are I will be at some point.

'But I'd like to stay a Cub. I love the organization. I like the personnel we have. They've had such an impact on the development of my career through the minor leagues. There's a long list of names I could thank.'

Barney spent most of the last offseason training in Arizona. That will change this year. The Barneys have rented a house on Beef Bend Road.

'I want to be with the family,' he said. 'I'll get down to Arizona after the first of the year, but I'm excited to get to spend most of the offseason at home in Oregon.'

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