Cubs

Cubs' Ramirez cares about winning, not the money

427435.jpg

Cubs' Ramirez cares about winning, not the money

Saturday, March 26, 2011Posted: 5:05 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. There is a side to Aramis Ramirez that likes to plug headphones into his ears and stare at his laptop. Part of him is just Employee No. 16. Sitting at his locker, hes seen so many of his co-workers come and go across the past seven-plus years.

Ramirez has outlasted managers Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella and the third baseman will do the same with Carlos Silva, who was told Saturday that he will not make the team and will be traded if anyone wants him.

Privately, the Cubs loved that Ramirez almost got into a fight with Silva this spring. They think hes motivated to impress the new ownership group that would have to sign off on any new contract. They saw fire from a player who can seem detached.

With Silva complaining about the defense behind him, one interpretation was Ramirez sticking up for his teammates in the dugout. The reality is that Ramirez does more behind the scenes than you think, particularly among the Latin players.

Carlos Marmol values their friendship so much that he asked Ramirez to be the godfather to his daughter. Ramirez welcomed Marmol to the clubhouse years ago, and hes doing it again with Starlin Castro.

At the end of this season, Ramirez can opt out of his complicated contract and choose to become a free agent. He turns 33 in June and doesnt know how long he wants to play.

Well see, Ramirez said. Right now I dont have any plans. I dont know what Im going to do. Im looking forward I want to play this year out and after (that) Ill have a better feeling.

Could you envision playing for another team?

Not really, Ramirez said, but Ive been traded before and Ive played somewhere else before. So I know what thats like, to change from one city to another that wont surprise me. Thats the nature of the game. Personally, I dont want to play anywhere else, but you never know whats going to happen.

The financial records at Baseball-Reference.com show that Ramirez has already made more than 87 million in his career. But its not really about the money.

Ramirez didnt grow up poor in the Dominican Republic. His mother worked as an accountant and his father was a doctor who preferred a son in that image and didnt want him to play baseball.

Ramirez actually thought he was better at basketball and didnt start playing baseball seriously until the age of 13 or 14. By 16, he had signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Three years later, he made his big-league debut.

Ramirez is now 11 homers away from 300 and could reach 400 with three excellent seasons, or four very good ones. He doesnt care about milestones and isnt too concerned about his legacy.

Numbers are numbers theyre going to be there, Ramirez said. (Making) the playoffs thats what counts. A lot of guys hit 30 homers and drive in 100 and theyre home October 1. That doesnt mean anything to me.

When youre a veteran guy (with) 10, 12 years in the league, you want to win because by that time youre already set. You sign a couple good contracts (and by then) the main thing is to (win). Im at that point right now.

Do you think you can win here?

Of course, Ramirez said. We got the pieces. We just got to stay healthy. (If) everybody does what theyre supposed to do, we should be OK.

The Cubs are counting on Ramirez to be an RBI machine, and not the hitter whose average was below .200 last July. Yet he still managed to reach 25 homers for the sixth time in a Cubs uniform something only Sammy Sosa, Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Ryne Sandberg have done.

Im looking for him to be healthy and excited about playing and I think he will, manager Mike Quade said. Look, this is a big year for us and for him and we dont know how all this comes together. But I love what Ive seen so far from a leadership standpoint. Ive bounced some stuff off of him and I know hes talked to (Castro) for me.

My veterans do what they do and I dont like to put too much on them. (But) there are a lot of things going on in spring training outside of just at-bats.

There are reasons to be optimistic, beyond the salary drive and the 16 million club option for 2012 that Ramirez can use in negotiations. Ramirez calls himself one of Quades biggest fans and really wanted his manager to keep the job.

You see a guy (whos 54) years old running around, Ramirez said. Im like, Damn, I got to keep up with him. Hes a fun guy to be around. Hopefully we do well for him.

Working out at the teams facility in the Dominican Republic also lifted Ramirez during the offseason. There, Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano were surrounded by a group of teenagers that want everything they have. It all came so naturally for Ramirez, who doesnt sound like he wants to give it up just yet.

Youre kind of the old man on the field, he said, but you get energized by that.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Kyle Ryan's emergence is coming at exactly the right time for Cubs

kyle_ryan_emerging_as_a_force_slide_photo.jpg
AP

Kyle Ryan's emergence is coming at exactly the right time for Cubs

With the MLB trade deadline two weeks away, bullpen help figures to be on the Cubs' wish list.

But thanks in part to Kyle Ryan's emergence, the Cubs don't absolutely need that reliever to be left-handed (though it would probably be ideal).

The Cubs began the week with three southpaws in their bullpen, but at some point this weekend, Ryan may be the lone lefty remaining. Mike Montgomery was traded to the Royals late Monday night and with Carl Edwards Jr. progressing in his rehab (he threw again Tuesday), he might take Randy Rosario's spot in a couple days. 

The Cubs like Edwards against lefties and they also feel confident in Pedro Strop against either handed hitter when he's on. But Ryan has worked his way into Joe Maddon's Circle of Trust and is currently the only lefty residing there.

That's not to say the Cubs don't need another reliable southpaw in the 'pen, but Ryan looks like he's going to get some big outs for this team down the stretch.

"He's done a great job for us since he's been here," Jon Lester said of Ryan last month. "I don't think he gets enough credit for what he's been able to do."

Ryan impressed the Cubs with his work as a multi-inning reliever in Triple-A last season and turned heads again in camp this spring. Still, Rosario made the Opening Day roster over him, though Ryan got called up on the team's season-opening road trip and made his first appearance on April 6.

Since then, he's been a mainstay while Montgomery battled injury and ineffectiveness, Rosario and Tim Collins have bounced between Triple-A Iowa and Chicago and veteran Xavier Cedeno's time off the injured list was short-lived.

Ryan looked to be finding his way throughout his first month in the bullpen, but after his infamous "freeze" moment against the Marlins, he endured some struggles (7 runs allowed on 12 hits in 7 innings from May 8 through June 1).

He's righted the ship since then, permitting only 1 run over his last 17 appearances (14 innings) and lowering his season ERA to 3.21 to go along with a 1.31 WHIP and 33 strikeouts in 33.2 innings.

A big part of that recent success can be tied to Ryan's increased improvement against left-handed hitters. 

Lefties hit .344 with a .405 on-base percentage off Ryan through June 5. But since then, Ryan has surrendered only 3 hits — all singles — and zero walks to the 19 left-handed hitters he's faced (.158 AVG).

He credits part of that turnaround to working on a changeup, which he thinks has helped lock in the "feel" of all his other pitches as well as his mechanics. 

As he works to add a new pitch to his repertoire, Ryan has leaned on Cubs bullpen coach Lester Strode and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy for assistance, while also picking the brains of veterans like Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks and Brad Brach who have all thrown changeups for quite a while.

But even with all that work, he still hasn't resorted to using the changeup much in games. The pitch is so foreign that it's still being picked up as a sinker, including on the Wrigley Field video board Sunday when he threw one in his inning of work.

"Eventually, I'm gonna find the changeup and it's gonna be a comfortable, confident pitch," Ryan said. "But I do think it's gotten me behind all the rest of my pitches and it's maybe a little bit better feel for everything. It's gonna stay where it is for a while. I'm gonna keep trying."

Ryan said one of the things he likes about the changeup is that it can eventually be a nice weapon because it "goes in the opposite direction" of all his other pitches.

We'll see if the new pitch can ever become a factor for the 27-year-old. But if it's helped lock in his other pitches, that's great news for the Cubs, especially as they look to fortify their bullpen this month.

Cubs Talk Podcast: The Yu Darvish 1st Wrigley win and post-ASG hot start podcast

darvish_thumb.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: The Yu Darvish 1st Wrigley win and post-ASG hot start podcast

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki discuss Yu Darvish's 1st win at Wrigley, Cole Hamel's status, and Kris Bryant playing better than he did in his MVP season.

01:00     Darvish picking up 1st win at Wrigley

03:30     Cole Hamels injury update

05:00     Starting rotation after the All-Star break

06:00     Cubs defense looking sharp

07:30     How the Cubs will approach the weekend and the expected heat

09:30     Kris Bryant playing above his MVP level

12:00     How the NL Central stacks up

14:00     Upcoming road trip to San Francisco, Milwaukee and Saint Louis

16:00     Addition to Martin Maldonado

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

Subscribe:

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.