OAKLAND, Calif. — If Jeff Samardzija has his way, Darwin Barney will have his back again in the middle of the infield the next time Samardzija pitches.
And if Samardzija’s boss, Billy Beane, is asking, the Oakland Athletics’ new ace will tell him.
“I would put in a word for Barney anywhere on that,” the former Cubs pitcher said of the Gold Glove second baseman who was designated for assignment on Tuesday. “He’s an amazing talent. And I know you stick Barney in the right situation on a winning team, he’s going to make that team a whole lot better.”
Samardzija, who talked to Barney after the move, insisted on having Barney start whenever he pitched even after first-year Cubs manager Rick Renteria relegated Barney to a platoon role.
“That was no accident, absolutely not,” said Samardzija, who was traded July 4 to the A’s in a 4-for-2 deal. “I played with Barney long enough in the minor leagues, and he saved my butt plenty of times. If I was going to go down swinging, Barney was going to be out there with me at second base, and that was that.”
Both Bay Area teams are in dire need of second-base help, and the Cubs had talked to several teams about a trade for weeks leading up to the DFA move. Industry sources say the asking price was too high.
Barney’s not an especially vocal guy, Samardzija said, “but he’s a leader, and he’s a veteran in his own way, and that’s the way he works, the way he plays the game, the way he cares about the game. He’s one of those dudes that hated losing and couldn’t stand it and was trying to do everything he could to change it.”