Jays’ Darwin Barney knows his role

Jays’ Darwin Barney knows his role
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA.—Darwin Barney had bunting on the brain when he stepped up to the plate in the seventh inning of the Toronto Blue Jays’ first game against the Tampa Bay Rays here on Thursday.

“First and third, staying out of a double play is important. It was something I had on my mind anyways and (manager John Gibbons) kind of tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Look out for this.’ It was nice to see that we were on the same page there,” Barney said.

From there, the plan turned to focus, execution and trusting the guys on base — Russell Martin at third and Justin Smoak on first — to be on the same page. Barney, who is 2-for-3 after two games, played his part to a tee, bunting toward Rays first baseman Logan Morrison, who bobbled the ball.

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Martin was already halfway home by the time Morrison committed the error; he understood Barney’s thinking, and scored Toronto’s fifth run of the night in the Blue Jays’ first win of the season.

“Russ may not be the fastest guy but he definitely has instincts on the bases and he showed them there,” Barney said.

Slotting into the lineup with ease like he did on Thursday night is exactly how Barney likes his role in this veteran Toronto team to play out.

“I think we all know that it takes more than 25 guys to get through a season, especially on this team, with the guys that we have in the infield,” he said on Friday.

“My role is just to be ready, whether it’s 10 minutes before the game I get the call or if I know the day before. That’s kind of why I’m here. I can spell somebody, give them a day. And those guys are going to need days, so my job is to keep the boat rowing in the same direction when one of your main rowers is not there, kind of thing.”

Those last minute starts are generally few and far between; Barney says for the most part there is a good level of communication in the clubhouse. He usually gets a heads-up about the possibility of playing. A lot of times there are scheduled starts in there too, the utility infielder said.

But he also knows how to be flexible.

“It’s part of the gig. I’m not unhappy about it,” Barney said with a smile.

He was also comfortable with Toronto’s start to the season, despite two defeats in the Blue Jays’ first three.

“Obviously it’s all about wins at this time of the year, all times of the year, so I think as a team you can’t worry too much about those two first losses. For us we’re just moving forward and we’re very confident in who we have in here.”

Concern from fans about a slow start is the nature of the beast, Barney said, but it is not a feeling shared by the clubhouse.

“The first game of the year is the only game so if you’re 0-1 and it’s like, ‘Oh no,’ you know? But as players, we don’t have a rookie guy in this team so I don’t think there’s any guy in here that was worried, I would say.”

Toronto feels like its going to be a contender this year despite a tough AL East division, Barney said.

And while the Blue Jays’ biggest bats search for their rhythm, he’s confident in cover the bottom of the order can provide. Barney is particularly excited by Kevin Pillar, who was 3-for-11 with one run after three games. He said the centre-fielder is swinging better than he has ever seen.

“Those seven, eight, nine guys are very crucial to our lineup because when you roll it over with guys on base they’ve got to pitch to those guys a little differently.”


Friday night’s game ended after the Star’s deadline. Full coverage on Star Touch and at
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