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Barney named NL's top rookie for April

Barney named NL's top rookie for April

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Barney named NL's top rookie for April
LOS ANGELES -- Two months ago, Darwin Barney wasn't sure where he'd be playing in 2011. Would he be the starting shortstop at Triple-A Iowa or a backup on the Cubs' big league team?

Barney made the most of his spring opportunities and on Tuesday, he was named the April recipient of the Gillette presents National League Rookie of the Month Award.

"I'm happy to be contributing," Barney said. "It's a great honor and something I didn't expect."

Barney, 25, batted .326 in April with one home run and 14 RBIs, which ranked second among Major League rookies. He had four doubles, two triples, 15 runs scored and one stolen base to go along with a .351 on-base percentage and a .449 slugging percentage.

Selected by the Cubs in the fourth round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, Barney recorded 11 multi-hit games in the first month, including a three-hit game on April 23 against the Dodgers. In that game, a 10-8 Cubs victory, he drove in a season-high three runs with a double and scored two runs.

In the three games against the Dodgers at Wrigley Field, Barney went 6-for-15 (.400) with five RBIs. The Portland, Ore., native hit his first career home run, a two-run shot, on April 25 against the Rockies.

Barney's 29 hits in April were the most by a Cubs rookie since 2008, when Kosuke Fukudome had 32 hits. Additionally, he hit safely in 17 of his 20 starts during April, and batted .500 (10-for-20) with runners in scoring position.

"He earned every bit of that award, too," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "We all get wrapped up in the offensive thing here. He's just a really good baseball player, and if he continues to have success like that, he'll be a really, really good baseball player."

The last Cubs rookie to win the award was Geovany Soto, who did so in both April and August 2008 en route to winning the NL Rookie of the Year.

"What's changed the most [this year] is that my wife is pregnant and we're having another one in September," said Barney, who already has a daughter, Hayden. "These accolades and all of that, I'm very fortunate and happy to have the opportunity to play second base here in Chicago. It's not something I thought would happen coming into spring."

Barney worked hard this offseason, training in Mesa, Ariz., with strength coach Tim Buss. He was called up to the big leagues last Aug. 12. Those last few weeks of the regular season showed him how different it is between the big leagues and Minor Leagues.

"It opened my eyes to the speed of the game, what pitchers are going to try to do to you," Barney said. "What it showed me was the difference in the game and the talent level. It's an everyday struggle here. Every team comes in here every year believing they have a chance. It's a tough market. One team is happy at the end of the year and that's what it's all about is winning. There's no pitches off or days off. You have to come out and be ready every day."

It's the second honor this year for a Cubs player. Shortstop Starlin Castro was named NL Player of the Week after the first week of the season.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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