PITTSBURGH – Darwin Barney surveyed the line of reporters standing in front of his locker at PNC Park on Monday morning and conducted a quick inspection.
“No one’s recording this, right?” the Cubs second baseman asked.
Barney then pulled out his cellphone and scrolled through a few photos. He settled on the pre-stitches image of the bloody gash on his left knee taken by a team trainer, a deep laceration that forced him on the 15-day disabled list to start the season. Barney then held up his phone up for all to see, drawing a few moans and grimmaces.
Had the deep cut been two inches lower, the Cubs would have their everyday second baseman for the start of the season. Instead, because of Barney’s decision to chase after a foul ball and slide into the a concrete-slabbed wall at Minute Maid Park in Houston in the Cubs’ final spring training game, Barney became the latest casualty among Cubs starters.
If he had it to do over again, Barney insists he would have played the ball the same. At the time, Barney was within an out of finishing his three innings of work. But after failing to cleanly field a ground ball and then playing the error over in his head, he charged hard after the fly ball, sliding to protect himself.
The injury cost the Cubs a Golden Glove-winning infielder and one of the team’s emerging stars at a time when the Cubs are trying to get a good start to the season.
“That’s just how you play the game,” Barney said before Monday’s 3-1 win over the Pirates. “You can’t look back and say, ‘Man, I shouldn’t have gone after it.’ That’s just how it works.”
Manager Dale Sveum wouldn’t commit to naming Brent Lillibridge the starter while Barney is out. Lillibridge started Monday and made an error in the first inning before failing to turn what appeared to be a routine double play.
Starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija pitched out of the jam and later got a couple of impressive defensive assists from Lillibridge, who also struck out three times Monday. Lillibridge is expected to split time at second base with Alberto Gonzalez until Barney returns, a rotation Sveum defined Monday as winging it.
The Cubs said Monday that Barney will have his knee re-evaluated in a week. Barney didn’t even know the gash was so bad until he returned to the clubhouse after the game in Houston. Because it is right on his knee, the injury makes it difficult for Barney to slide or try to make a back-handed defensive play. Any contact with that spot on his knee, Barney said, could break open the stitches and extend his time on the disabled list.
Sveum said it was just a matter of unfortunate placement.
“Anywhere else on the body and he would’ve been playing,” Sveum said.
Barney will continue to take batting practice and will assume more of a cheerleading role with the Cubs, making the injury a little easier to stomach. Barney said the club did not complain about the wall to the Astros organization seeing how Wrigley Field is lined with bricks, making drawing attention to the slab on the wall in Houston “the wrong thing morally to do.”
And after watching Louisville basketball player Kevin Ware break his leg Sunday night in the Cardinals’ Elite Eight win over Duke, Barney admitted it’s too hard to feel sorry for himself.
“I was lying in bed feeling really bad and all of a sudden I feel blessed,” Barney said. “But I’ll be back. It definitely could have been worse. So we’ll look at it positively and we’ll look at it in all the ways that we can and just be glad that I’m still walking right now and move on from there.”