PHOENIX Aramis Ramirez wasnt the first guy in the clubhouse and the last to leave the ballpark. He liked to plug in his headphones and spend time on his laptop.
Ramirez has a reserved personality and isnt a natural leader, but he could make people listen, especially the Latin players. That usually got lost in all the talk about his body language, but Starlin Castro picked it up right away, a few pieces to the education of an All-Star shortstop.
As Castro recalled: He told me: If you do something wrong, the fans will say something to you. Dont worry about it. Take that out of your mind and play baseball.'
Its OK, dont worry, that happened to me a lot of times, too.
The Cubs returned to Maryvale Baseball Park on Saturday, one year after Ramirez had to be separated from Carlos Silva in the dugout. Ramirez, Castro and Koyie Hill had each committed errors in a six-run first inning and it almost exploded into a fight. It became a billboard for dysfunction, but Ramirez showed some fire and stuck up for Castro.
It was an incident thats not supposed to happen, Ramirez said. (Silva said) something hes not supposed to. Nobody wants to make errors. I stood up and it wasnt pretty.
The Cubs have moved on and Ramirez is wearing a Milwaukee Brewers uniform. Dale Sveum a former Brewers player, coach and interim manager is running the show now, trying to get Castro to attack the ball and be on alert every play.
Castro drilled his first home run this spring during a 6-1 victory over the Brewers, but says that his individual goals revolve around getting better on defense.
Hes got another year under his belt, Ramirez said. Hes young, but hes real talented and hes smart. The only downside for him last year was his focus. Thats why he made a lot of errors, but hes going to get better.
Castros got all the tools. Hes got good hands, good feet. He moves well. Hes just got to concentrate a little better and hes going to get the job done. Offensively, hes one of the best hitters right now. He got 200 hits at (age) 21, so hes only going to get better. Defensively, hes got to work a bit.
Ramirez got to the big leagues one month before his 20th birthday, and believes he knows what it takes at this level. Thats why Ramirez told Darwin Barney in 2010 to work out hard in the offseason, because he could take the job at second base. Barney had never really heard that before from anyone else in the organization.
Yes, teammates didnt always appreciate the personal considerations that Ramirez received. He had trouble staying healthy and in the lineup, but was still among the most productive third basemen in the game.
Remember that Castro committed three errors and got booed during his Wrigley Field debut in 2010 and could have wilted. The talking heads debated whether he should be moved to another position, and Bobby Valentine wouldnt let his mental lapses go during an ESPN Sunday night broadcast last season.
Castro led the league with 29 errors last year, but it was in Chicago and not Double-A Tennessee. Ramirez tried to help Castro through his first two seasons, and maybe now some of it will sink in.
If you ask him, hed be the first one to tell you, Ramirez said. Yeah, we talked a lot. Thats why I say hes smart, because he asks a lot of questions. He wants to get better. He works hard. Theres a lot of stuff that the fans or the media dont see. Hes out there taking groundballs early almost every day. Im sure its going to pay off.
Its too late to rewrite the legacy of Ramirez on the North Side, but national perceptions might change if he wins a World Series in Milwaukee. And if Castro really does mature into a franchise player, Ramirez will have to get a little bit of credit.
Its tough to see your teammate play for another team, Castro said. Thats baseball. You dont know where youre going to finish your career. Hes a good guy. I learned from him a lot.
If you did something wrong or you did something good, hed tell you.