Sometimes the value of a player is never appreciated more than when he's not in the lineup. That theory most definitely applies to Chicago Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney. The lone Gold Glove winner on the team missed the first 12 games of the season with an injury and lo and behold the Cubs defense suffered.

Coincidence or not, his return has coincided with an uptick in play in the field for the Cubs. It helped them win Monday night, 5-3, over the San Diego Padres.

"Barney solidified our defense, believe me," manager Dale Sveum said in some of the highest praise of the season. "When he's out there he's going to do a lot of things in the course of the game but he's going to do at least one thing a day that is going to change the aspect of game.

"It's going to save pitchers umpteen pitches. That's why he won the Gold Glove. He's the best in the league. That's how much he means to us. He changes the game around for us defensively."

And Sveum said this on a night when Barney had a pair of two-out RBI hits, in the fourth and sixth innings. That's always been the question mark with him. Will he hit enough? Will he get on-base enough? He's currently 9-for-45 since returning with an on-base percentage of .265. It needs to go up.

"I'm feeling better and better," Barney said. "Making some adjustments here and there. Working on my posture a little bit. Swing at better pitches and hopefully it turns around a little more."

So is he part of the core group the Cubs will employ in the coming years? At 27, he could just be coming into his prime. Second base prospect Logan Watkins is an on-base machine in the minors and might push him, but Gold Glove infielders can prevent as many runs as offensive oriented players produce.

According to Baseball Info Solutions Barney "saved" the Cubs 28 runs last season, tops in all of baseball. Defensive runs saved measures a fielder's ability to turn batted balls into outs and perform position-specific skills, such as turning double plays for Barney. That's no small statistic.