Laceration on kneecap forces Barney to DL
Utility man Gonzalez added to Opening Day roster; Lillibridge starts at second
PITTSBURGH -- If Darwin Barney suffered a cut anywhere else on his leg, he might have been in the Cubs' lineup on Monday. But the Gold Glove second baseman has a deep laceration on his left kneecap, and will be sidelined at least two weeks.
Barney, injured in the final exhibition game Saturday at Minute Maid Park when he crashed into the wall along the right-field line, was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Sunday. The Cubs selected the contract of infielder Alberto Gonzalez and added him to the 40-man roster, and Brent Lillibridge started at second in the Cubs' season opener against the Pirates.
"You spend your whole offseason thinking about today [Opening Day] -- when you're in the gym, when you're pushing yourself," Barney said Monday at PNC Park, wearing a large bandage on his left knee. "We had a good spring as a club. We did a lot of things positively. It's unfortunate, but the good thing is we have guys who can fill in like Lillibridge and Gonzalez, who are good players.
"I feel very comfortable with Lillibridge out there," Barney added. "He's a great player. Good thing is, we're a team, and I'm still a part of it, and I can still be out there helping out. With [pitcher Matt] Garza not here, maybe I'll take over his yelling role."
Barney has photos of the cut on his knee, and it's not pretty.
"You take five stitches anywhere else on the body, he would've been playing," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "It's right on the middle of the kneecap and any time you bend it right now, it would rupture the stitches. It's unfortunate. He'd be playing if it was on the shin or something like that. Unfortunately, it was right on the kneecap."
Whether Lillibridge will play every day was to be determined, Sveum said.
"We'll wing that and see how it all goes," he said.
The Cubs have had their share of injuries this spring. Garza (strained lat), Scott Baker (strained right elbow), Arodys Vizcaino (right elbow), and third baseman Ian Stewart (sore left quad) all opened the season on the disabled list.
Barney knows his injury could've been much more severe. He will be re-examined in one week.
"I thought by sliding, I'd be protecting myself," Barney said. "There's a concrete corner and slab on the bottom [of the wall]. I ran right into that. When I pulled my pant leg up, i was pretty freaked out, and didn't have any idea [the cut] was there."
Barney knows all about hard surfaces. He wasn't going to complain to the Astros about the freak injury.
"Wrigley Field is lined by bricks," Barney said. "It'd be kind of, probably, the wrong thing to do morally to complain about a concrete slab on the bottom of their fence. It's tough. Wrigley Field doesn't have edges, so that helps a little bit.
"It's not the first time it's happened and hopefully it's the last," he said. "Next time, I'll know to go over the fence instead of into it."
Barney can still take swings in the batting cage, but otherwise has to limit how much he bends his left knee.
"If [the cut] is two inches lower, I'm probably fine," he said. "The fact that it's right on my knee, you go down for a backhand, you slide, go headfirst diving, anything that hits on that spot could break open the stitches and start the process over. At this point, the safe thing to do is not let that happen.
"It's just a matter of staying out of game play so I don't bang it or reinjure it," he said. "It's an unfortunate area, but it's all right. I have all the confidence in the world in the guys in this clubhouse."
Barney was watching the NCAA men's basketball tournament Sunday night and saw Louisville's Kevin Ware break his leg in the game against Duke.
"I was laying in bed, feeling bad for myself, and all of a sudden I felt blessed to just have a deep laceration," Barney said. "That poor guy [Ware] last night. I'll be back. Unfortunately, he has a lot more rehab than I do. It definitely could've been worse.
"We'll look at it positively and just be happy that I'm still walking right now and move on from there," he said.
Lillibridge, 29, batted .313 this spring, and played all infield spots as well as some outfield. This was his first Opening Day start in his career.
"Lillibridge will step in," Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "Darwin's a great player and a great person, too, and great friend. He'll be back and ready, and hopefully this is just a hiccup."
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.