Cubs honor Aramis Ramirez as 18-year career nears its end


Cubs honor Aramis Ramirez as 18-year career nears its end

Armies Ramirez spent the best years of his career on Clark and Addison, and before his final regular season game in Chicago was honored by his former club.

The 37-year-old Ramirez will retire after the 2015 season, ending an 18-year tenure in the major leagues with just shy of 400 home runs. He starred for the Cubs from 2003-2011 and was a key part of the team’s last three playoff appearances in 2003, 2007 and 2008.

Before Sunday’s game, Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro presented the Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman with a No. 16 placard -- his number with the Cubs -- from the center field scoreboard to a warm round of applause from the Wrigley Field crowd.

“Any time they do something like that, you have to appreciate it,” Ramirez said. “That means they appreciate what I did here for a long time.”

[MORE: The Cubs are Anthony Rizzo’s playoff team now]

The Cubs acquired Ramirez and outfielder Kenny Lofton from Pittsburgh on July 23, 2003, a move that helped spur the team’s run to the National League Championship Series. Ramirez hit 15 home runs in 63 games for the Cubs in 2003, the first of 239 home runs hit with the Cubs. Ramirez, who made a pair of All-Star appearances (2005 and 2008), hit .294/.356/.531 with 806 RBIs from 2003-2011.

Ramirez began his major league career with Pittsburgh in 1998, and hit 34 home runs as a 23-year-old in 2001. He signed a four-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers after leaving the Cubs following the 2011 season and reached his third All-Star Game in 2014. The Pirates acquired him on July 23, exactly 12 years after trading him away to the Cubs.

“I’m pretty proud of what I did in my career, not only here in Chicago,” Ramirez said. “In Milwaukee, back in Pittsburgh. I’m proud every single moment in my career.”

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Tyler Chatwood looked to be turning the corner with his control issues, but alas, he and the Cubs aren't so lucky.

After walking only two batters in a solid start in Atlanta last week, Chatwood had taken a big step in the right direction. It was, after all, only the third time he'd walked fewer than 5 batters in an outing this season.

Those control woes reared their ugly heads once again Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in a 10-1 loss to the Indians. Chatwood walked 6 batters and managed to net only 8 outs, getting hammered for 4 runs in the third inning.

"Ugh, it was tough," Maddon said. "The stuff was so good, we just couldn't get a strike."

"It's definitely frustrating," Chatwood said, "because one at-bat, I'll feel really good and the next one, I feel like I'm fighting myself.

"Last time [out], I was able to stay in the rhythm. Tonight, I was kinda battling, rushing rather than staying back, so it's just keeping that feeling and maintaining that."

His season ERA is only 3.74, which looks good until you consider his WHIP is 1.62 and he's walked 40 batters in 45.2 innings with only 41 strikeouts in the process. He now leads baseball in walks per 9 innings.

Chatwood said earlier this month in St. Louis that he's figured out what has led to the startling lack of control and while he didn't elaborate on the mechanical issue, he was working hard at correcting the problem in bullpens.

He's also used the term "fighting myself" at least a dozen times this month alone and it's become a common refrain for his explanation of what's going on. 

"He's got a busy delivery when he throws the baseball," Maddon said. "He's kinda busy what he does with his hands. It's not like he can just change it easily because that's how his arm works, how his body works.

"Sometimes, like you see him the other day, everything's on time and how good it can be and when it's out of sorts a bit, then all of the sudden it becomes shotgun. Ah man, you can see the movement [on his pitches] from the side, how good it is. 

"We gotta harness it somehow. I spoke to him briefly on the bench; I reassured him it's gonna be fine, it's gonna be really good by the end of the year. We gotta figure it out and he knows that. But man, that's good stuff. We just gotta get it in the zone."

Chatwood also admitted part of the problem is mental in that he's trying to force pitches rather than trusting his stuff. He's also gotten into the bad habit of drifting down the mound, though he's not sure when or where he picked up that hitch in his delivery.

Chatwood and Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey are working on slowing his delivery down to get his arm in the same spot on a more consistent basis.

When the Cubs signed Chatwood over the winter, it was easy to see why.

He just turned 28 in December, his peripherals and a move from hitter-friendly Coors Field foretold a potential leap in performance and his stuff is nasty. Plus, he signed a three-year deal at a relative bargain of $38 million.

Once the Cubs signed Yu Darvish in spring training, you could make the case that Chatwood could be among the best No. 5 starters in baseball.

Nine starts later, the honeymoon period is well over with Chatwood, as he threw only 30 of his 74 pitches for strikes Tuesday night and sent catcher Willson Contreras sailing all around home plate for pitches way out of the zone.

Still, it's clear to see there is some intriguing talent there and the season there is roughly 70 percent of the season remaining before the Cubs make what they hope is another run at the World Series.

"I have a lot of faith," Maddon said. "I know we're gonna reap the rewards, the benefits as he figures this thing out."

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Marlon Byrd discusses his suspensions for PED use and Ozzie Guillen offers a solution to the PED problem

NBC Sports Chicago

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Marlon Byrd discusses his suspensions for PED use and Ozzie Guillen offers a solution to the PED problem

Ozzie Guillen explains why he thinks Manny Machado is a better fit for the Cubs than the White Sox. Plus, Guillen and Marlon Byrd react to 19-year-old Juan Soto hitting a homer in his first at-bat with the Nationals.

Later in the show the guys debate who had the better rants in front of the media: Guillen or Byrd?

Finally, Byrd opens up about his PED suspensions, relates to the guys caught using PEDs now and Guillen offers up a solution to rid baseball of PEDs entirely.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: