03/31/11 5:00 PM ET
Barney gets Cubs' Opening Day nod at second
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
Cubs manager Mike Quade announced the lineup Thursday before a workout at Wrigley Field. Barney will be the first Cubs rookie to start Opening Day since Kosuke Fukudome did in 2008.
"No butterflies yet, but I'm excited," Barney said. "It's a great opportunity, but there's one thing on my mind, and that's trying to win the ballgame. And I think that's what this whole team is looking to do. We're looking to get off to a good start.
"There are a couple other guys who deserved it as well," Barney said. "They'll contribute, if not tomorrow or the next day. I feel fortunate."
The rest of the Cubs' lineup will be Fukudome in right, shortstop Starlin Castro, center fielder Marlon Byrd, third baseman Aramis Ramirez, first baseman Carlos Pena, catcher Geovany Soto, left fielder Alfonso Soriano, Barney and pitcher Ryan Dempster.
Barney, who hit a two-run homer in Wednesday's intrasquad game in Mesa, Ariz., batted .340 in 21 games this spring. Jeff Baker, who hit .360 in 19 Cactus League games, will get the start at second base on Saturday against Pirates lefty Paul Maholm.
"There were a lot of guys who had good camps," Quade said. "[Barney] and Baker had great camps and they both earned a chance to play. Barring something crazy, 'Bake' will start against the left-hander on the second day."
Blake DeWitt, the Cubs' other option at second base, struggled this spring, batting .186 in 21 games.
Barney started two games at second base last season at Triple-A Iowa, playing primarily at shortstop.
"Coming into spring, it's not really what I was expecting to be at the end, but about midway through I felt very comfortable at second base, which was new for me," he said. "The time in the offseaon I spent working at it and thinking about it paid off."
Cubs excited to start season at Wrigley
CHICAGO -- Actor Robert Redford will throw out the ceremonial first pitch, Ron Santo Jr. will lead the crowd during the seventh-inning stretch, and the team will collect donations for victims of Japan's earthquake and tsunami on Opening Day at Wrigley Field on Friday.
Santo will lead the crowd in "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," something his late father did more than anyone else. Ron Santo Sr. died in December at the age of 70. The Cubs are wearing No. 10 patches on their uniforms in honor of the broadcaster and third baseman.
Besides Redford, the Ricketts family will select a family of Cubs fans to throw a ceremonial first pitch prior to Friday's season opener between the Cubs and Pirates.
On Thursday, the Cubs warmed up for the opener with a workout at Wrigley Field. Matt Garza, who will start on Sunday, his first game at the Cubs' home ballpark, threw some pitches off the mound.
"People tell me there's nothing I can possibly do to prepare for something like this," first baseman Carlos Pena said. "Chicago is a very special place, Wrigley Field is a very special place. The fans are very intense. I'm excited about it. I'm very blessed, and I don't take this for granted.
"I walked in this morning and walked up that concourse and got the fans' perspective and all I said was, 'Thank you,'" Pena said. "I'm pumped to be here."
Kerry Wood knows his way around Wrigley better than anyone, having called the ballpark home from 1998-2008. Prognosticators have tabbed the Cubs to finish in the middle of the field in the National League Central, but Wood just shrugs that off.
"I think tomorrow, the sun's going to come up and we're going to get dressed and play a baseball game," he said. "All the experts are always wrong. Their early picks are never right. If we focus on what we have to do and go out and do what makes us good, we'll be all right."
Actually, the sun may not come up. The forecast for Friday calls for rain and snow mix with temperatures in the 40s. The forecast for the Cubs is brighter as far as the players are concerned.
"I've picked us and that's all that matters," said Ryan Dempster, who will make his third career Opening Day start and first with the Cubs. "We've picked ourselves to go out and win ballgames and do well. I saw that CC Sabathia yesterday picked his team to win it all. Isn't that what you're supposed to do? I think if we listened to the experts as kids, a lot of us wouldn't be in the big leagues. I know there are some really great teams on paper, but it's about wins and losses."
Also part of the Cubs' Opening Day festivities: The national 9/11 flag will be on display in the outfield. The flag was destroyed in the aftermath of the collapse of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and stitched together seven years later by tornado survivors in Greensburg, Kan.
The Cubs also will have a moment of silence before the game in honor of those affected by the natural disaster in Japan. They will conduct a collection to raise funds for UNICEF to help children affected by the earthquake and tsunami.
Redford, who starred in the baseball classic "The Natural," is in Chicago for the premiere of his latest movie, "The Conspirator," which opens nationwide April 15. The movie tells the story of the woman charged in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the young lawyer who defended her.
Matt Garza threw off the mound at Wrigley Field on Thursday for the first time in his career. The new Cubs starter, acquired over the offseason from the Rays, will make his Cubs debut on Sunday against the Pirates. Garza had a difficult time gripping the ball in Arizona this spring, giving up 35 hits and walking 14 over 21 2/3 innings. "There's no question Arizona is an adjustment for pitchers," manager Mike Quade said. "But no excuses, let's go out there Sunday and play. He's got too much of a history of quality stuff behind him and emphasis on the word 'stuff.' The one thing I did like the entire spring is our pitching coach said the ball came out of [Garza's] hand real good." Garza has spent every Spring Training in Florida before this year. ... Now that he's back with the Cubs, Kerry Wood reclaimed his prime end locker in the clubhouse from John Grabow, who moved two spaces down. ... Asked about his expectations for Starlin Castro, Quade quipped: "Two errors and .390." ... Opening Day will be special for Quade, who took over last August. "Did I want to manage at the Major League level? Did I want that challenge? Absolutely," he said. "Did I think it would come in my hometown? Nah, probably not. Maybe someday. For all of this to come together the way it did is something special for me."
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.