Barney provides Blue Jays with late spark

Utility infielder delivers pinch-hit double, scores go-ahead run

Barney provides Blue Jays with late spark

ST. PETERSBURG -- Darwin Barney does not get a lot of opportunities, but he made the most of the one he got Sunday afternoon against the Rays.

The seldom-used utility infielder provided the spark the Blue Jays had been so desperately looking for with a leadoff double in the ninth inning. The extra-base hit sparked a four-run frame as Toronto claimed a 5-1 victory at Tropicana Field.

Barney entered Sunday with just 28 at-bats in 10 games, but he picked a perfect time to come through. Toronto's offense was struggling and locked in a 1-1 tie until Barney brought the dugout to life with a pinch-hit double off left-hander Xavier Cedeno.

"Feels good to pull my weight a little bit," Barney said. "Do what I can to be a piece of this puzzle. We battled [Rays starter Jake Odorizzi] today, he had good stuff. His fastball was moving up on us a little bit, getting above our barrel. I think we grinded it out."

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons may want to explore the possibility of expanding Barney's role following his club's recent offensive woes. The starter at second base, Ryan Goins, is batting just .169 with four extra-base hits this season, and Toronto's 15 hits this weekend were the club's fewest in a three-game series since Aug. 17-19, 2012, vs. Texas.

Goins is an elite-level defender, but Barney is also a Gold Glove winner and can hold his own at second base. Barney does not appear to be a candidate to become the everyday guy, but the club may have no choice but to start using him more, especially against left-handed pitching.

In limited work, Barney is batting .310 (9-for-29) with one homer and four RBIs. Considering the Blue Jays scored six runs during a recent series against the White Sox and entered the ninth Sunday with a total of 11 hits in this series, Barney is worth a look.

"I wouldn't call it a shot, I'm a part of this ballclub and I'm just trying to help this team when my number is called," Barney said. "You build a routine when you're not playing every day and that routine is supposed to get you ready to go. For me, that's what I do. Try to relax, see the game play out and see how I might fit in."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.