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MIL@PIT: Estrada limits Pirates to one run over six

Darwin Barney has been the Cubs' regular second baseman the last three seasons, but finds himself now sharing the position with Luis Valbuena and Emilio Bonifacio. That doesn't diminish what Barney means to the team, manager Rick Renteria said.

"His play has been sporadic, but he's also an individual who, in tight ballgames, can still defend and we can use him," Renteria said. "He's a tremendous defender. He's a tremendously valuable person for us, and I don't want people to lose sight of that.

"He's not in the ballgame [Friday], but he's a valuable asset to us," Renteria said. "We're going to use his skills to our benefit."

It's unknown if Barney will be in the lineup on Saturday when the Cubs and Brewers square off for the second game of their three-game series at Miller Park, with Chicago's Travis Wood opposing Milwaukee's Marco Estrada. The Crew won the series opener, 5-2, as former Cubs pitcher Matt Garza struck out seven and scattered four hits over seven innings.

Barney isn't the only second baseman who isn't getting as much playing time. The Brewers have been using Scooter Gennett more than Rickie Weeks, and Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke confirmed Friday that he will continue his strict platoon at second base. That means the beleaguered Weeks will start against Cubs' left-hander Wood on Saturday.

Entering the series, Weeks owned a .120/.154/.160 slash line in 25 at-bats while Gennett, his left-handed-hitting platoon mate, was at .317/.348/.444. Both had been charged with two errors, but one of Weeks' came on a would-be double play ball in Pittsburgh last week and led to a five-run inning for the Pirates.

After that game, Roenicke didn't waver, saying the platoon system would continue.

"You're saying you think we should do it a different way?" Roenicke said. "Rick's only starting against lefties. We're not seeing that many lefties, so the bulk of the playing time is certainly going to Scooter, and he's playing well. He's had some defensive things, too, but we'll just see how things go here."

Barney did win a Gold Glove in 2012, but he's batting .121 this season. Valbuena, who has started three games at second, is batting .213 entering play Saturday, while Bonifacio, who made his 10th start at second on Friday, is hitting .353.

"[Valbuena] has had some great at-bats," Renteria said. "In spring, he had great at-bats. The swings he was putting on, he was obviously able to drive the ball. This season, he's been able to square it up pretty good, so he's hit some hard-hit balls. In some instances, he doesn't have a whole lot to show for it. It's been a pretty nice little run for him up to this point."

Cubs: Veras day to day
Reliever Jose Veras has a sore left oblique and is day to day. The right-hander pitched on Thursday against the D-backs, and he gave up two runs in one inning. It was his sixth appearance this season. He lost his job as the closer after blowing a two-run lead on April 11 against the Cardinals, and Thursday was only his second appearance since then.

"Veras is a little sore with his left oblique, and hopefully he'll be OK," Renteria said. "He's been working really hard and developed a little soreness. He's a very hard worker. We'll monitor it and see how he's doing."

The Cubs have eight relievers in the bullpen, including Veras, after adding lefty Zac Rosscup and right-hander Neil Ramirez on Thursday.

Brewers: Still an I-94 rivalry?
Is Brewers vs. Cubs still a heated rivalry? Sure it is, Roenicke said.

"Absolutely," Roenicke said. "It's always so tough to win games against them. They play us tough, and I know their fans don't like us. I don't know how the players feel. But it's there."

The Brewers had posted losing records against the Cubs for four straight seasons before Roenicke took the helm in 2011. Under Roenicke, the Brewers have posted winning head-to-head records against the Cubs in three straight years, going 36-16 in all.

Worth noting:
• Chicago's Ramirez made his Major League debut Friday, entering in the sixth inning. Carlos Gomez and Ryan Braun were both 3-for-3 before the sixth, and Ramirez got Gomez to fly out and struck out Braun.

• Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro has reached safely in each of his last 11 games at Miller Park, dating back to Aug. 22, 2012. He's batting .311 in that stretch. On Friday, Castro batted cleanup for the second time in his career, and first since Aug. 18, 2012. He has hit safely in 15 of his last 20 games.

• Wood leads the Cubs with 28 strikeouts. He's also become the best-hitting pitcher. In his last start, he hit a double and a home run, driving in four runs. The lefty has three quality starts in his four outings so far.

• In 11 games against the Cubs (six starts), Estrada is 4-0 with a 3.74 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings. Since giving up one earned run in 5 2/3 innings to open the season, he's posted three straight quality starts.

• Brewers outfielder Logan Schafer, on the 15-day DL with a strained right hamstring, said he was already doing some light running and hitting, and was on track to be ready well ahead of May 3, the first date he is eligible for reinstatement. Comments