Cubs core: Barney in the running for Gold Glove

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Cubs core: Barney in the running for Gold Glove

In Theo Epsteins mind, players can be divided into two categories: Those who are part of the core, and those who are not.

Its not always that neat or simple some are marked only by potential, others are contingent upon specific improvements to their game and some could ultimately be used as trading chips once the Cubs are in a win-now mode.

But this has been the big idea during the first year of the Epstein administration, and it will continue that way on the North Side in 2013.

The offseason officially began late Sunday night, when the San Francisco Giants looked like a potential dynasty by finishing off the Detroit Tigers and winning their second World Series in the past three years.

Shaping the nucleus of a team that could go on that kind of run is Epsteins No. 1 goal this winter. The Cubs president already thinks Darwin Barney could be one of those guys.

More validation could come Tuesday, when the Gold Glove winners are revealed at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. Rawlings announced Barney as a finalist on Monday, along with Brandon Phillips (Cincinnati Reds) and Aaron Hill (Arizona Diamondbacks) at second base, as voted by managers and coaches.

Phillips has won two consecutive Gold Gloves at the position as well as three in the past four years and wasnt shy saying this in late September: Everybody knows Im the best defensive second baseman.

While defensive metrics are imperfect, Barney (.997) has the edge over Phillips (.992) and Hill (.992) in fielding percentage. According to FanGraphs.com, Barney (13.1) also outperformed Phillips (8.1) and Hill (4.6) in terms of UZR.

Barney has already won a Fielding Bible Award, as an almost unanimous selection as the best defensive second baseman in the majors, from a panel that included Bill James, Doug Glanville and Peter Gammons. The Fielding Bible calculated that Barney led all second basemen with 28 runs saved, or 17 more than Phillips.

In the future, manager Dale Sveum thinks the Cubs could potentially have an infield anchored by three Gold Glove winners, as Barney develops more chemistry with Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo and they enter their prime.

The big hole remains at third base, where the Cubs still have not found a replacement for Aramis Ramirez. Certain segments of the fan base and the media even some inside the organization loved to rip Ramirez, who generated 27 homers and 105 RBI and emerged as a Gold Glove finalist during his first year with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Ramirez didnt go out of his way to be a leader, he had trouble staying on the field and he didnt earn extra hustle points. But he produced when he was healthy, and was perceptive when he turned to Barney one day during batting practice at Wrigley Field late in the 2010 season.

Rami was the guy (in 2010) who said: Look, you have an opportunity to play second base every day next year, Barney once recalled. It was something I never thought about and I kind of was questioning it. He said: Look, you can hit. You can play. And those kind of things people dont get to see.

Already a game-changer defensively, the Cubs expect Barney (.299 on-base percentage) to become more of what they like to call a two-way player. He will turn 27 next month and still has the leadership qualities that made him a glue guy on the Oregon State University teams that won back-to-back College World Series titles.

Now its just a sort of small continued progress offensively, Epstein said. If he gets on base a little bit more, when you look at what he does defensively and his intangibles, he can be a guy that we lean on, too.

Barney grabbed headlines by going 141 straight games without an error at second base, tying Placido Polanco for the major-league, single-season record and making the rest of the league pay attention.

Except for Phillips, who said he didnt know about the streak when a reporter mentioned it before the Reds clinched their division title: Oh, really, thats cool. Thats nice. Honestly, Ive been too busy winning.

With that, here are the National Leagues Gold Glove finalists:

Pitcher
Bronson Arroyo, Cincinnati Reds
Mark Buehrle, Miami Marlins
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

Catcher
Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
Miguel Montero, Arizona Diamondbacks
Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies

First base
Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals
Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

Second base
Darwin Barney, Chicago Cubs
Aaron Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks
Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds

Third base
Chase Headley, San Diego Padres
Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee Brewers
David Wright, New York Mets

Shortstop
Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds
Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals
Jose Reyes, Miami Marlins
Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies

Left field
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies
Martin Prado, Atlanta Braves

Center field
Michael Bourn, Atlanta Braves
Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
Drew Stubbs, Cincinnati Reds

Right field
Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds
Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers
Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves

Cubs bash three homers in come-from-behind win over Red Sox

Cubs bash three homers in come-from-behind win over Red Sox

BOSTON — The Chicago Cubs adjusted quickly to Steven Wright's knuckleball.

Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer, and Miguel Montero had a solo shot off Wright, helping the Cubs rebound from a series-opening loss with a 7-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday.

"I thought we did a nice job. It's just awkward hitting against the knuckleball," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "There is no real training ground for it. You don't necessarily get a guy out there throwing a knuckleball in BP."

All the Cubs faced Wright for the first time.

After collecting just one single in the first three innings, Rizzo's homer started Chicago's comeback from a 3-0 deficit. Montero's shot tied it in the seventh.

"It's just hard. You really don't know what to look for," Montero said before joking "I told the umpire I'm going to close my eyes and swing hard in case I hit it."

Ben Zobrist added a solo homer, and Kris Bryant had two hits and scored twice for Chicago, backing a decent start by former Red Sox righty John Lackey.

Lackey (2-3) gave up four runs in six innings, snapping his string of losses in three straight starts. He was part of Boston's 2013 World Series title team.

Lackey said he texted former teammate Dustin Pedroia on the way to the ballpark.

Hanley Ramirez and Andrew Benintendi had solo homers for the Red Sox, who have the majors' fewest homers. Boston's streak of nine straight interleague wins in Fenway Park was snapped.

Wright (1-3) gave up five runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings.

"I think with the exception of the 0-2 slow knuckleball that Steven threw to Rizzo, this was his best knuckleball that he's had to date," Red Sox manager John Farrell said.

Wright has given up nine homers after allowing only 12 last season.

"I felt a lot better today overall," he said. "The one pitch I wish I could get back was that 0-2 pitch to Rizzo. I was trying to get it a little bit more in front of the plate and it kind of stood up a little bit and he made me pay."

Wade Davis pitched the ninth for his sixth save.

With summer-like temperatures for the second straight day and a marquee matchup with the defending champs, there was added buzz around the ballpark hours before the game.

Mixed in the fans flocking around Fenway were numerous Cubs fans wearing jerseys - many with "Sandberg," ''Bryant" or "Rizzo" on the back. There was a loud "Let's Go Cubbies!" in the ninth, and that was followed by some large "W'' flags after the Cubs won - a staple in Wrigley Field.

The Cubs overcame a 4-2 deficit with a run in the sixth inning and three in a seventh that was highlighted by two errors on one play.

Zobrist's run-scoring grounder sliced it to 4-3. Montero homered leading off the seventh against Wright before Kyle Schwarber's RBI single pushed them ahead.

Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts threw the ball away for an error on Rizzo's fielder's choice, allowing Schwarber to score. First baseman Mitch Moreland retrieved and fired it into left field.

Jackie Bradley Jr.'s RBI single made it 1-0 in the second.

Benintendi had a sacrifice fly and Ramirez belted his homer over the Green Monster seats completely out of Fenway, a shot estimated at 469 feet, in the third.

Bryant opened the fourth with a hard single and Rizzo followed with his drive to the back of Chicago's bullpen.

Benintendi hit his homer over Boston's bullpen.

Jake Arrieta gives up five runs in first, Cubs fall in series-opener with Red Sox

Jake Arrieta gives up five runs in first, Cubs fall in series-opener with Red Sox

BOSTON — Andrew Benintendi hit a solo homer off Jake Arrieta during a five-run first inning, and the Boston Red Sox held on to beat the Cubs 5-4 on Friday night.

Every Boston starter had at least one hit, and Hanley Ramirez, Mitch Moreland, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Christian Vazquez drove in a run each.

Left-hander Drew Pomeranz got the win with six innings of two-run ball, surrendering solo homers to Kris Bryant and Albert Almora Jr. in the early innings before settling in. He allowed six hits and two walks while striking out seven.

Boston has won its last nine interleague games at Fenway Park.

Arrieta logged his shortest start since Aug. 28, 2014, lasting only 4 1/3 innings and giving up 10 hits and three walks with five strikeouts.