Cubs' Ramirez cares about winning, not the money

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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.

John Lackey struggles as Cubs drop series finale to Reds

John Lackey struggles as Cubs drop series finale to Reds

CINCINNATI — With his high leg kick and below-the-radar breaking balls, Bronson Arroyo showed the Cubs a little old-style pitching. Who needs to throw 90 mph to beat the World Series champions?

The 40-year-old righty gave his best performance yet in his long comeback from elbow problems, pitching three-hit ball over six innings on Sunday, and the Cincinnati Reds salvaged a 7-5 victory . Arroyo worked fast, varied the angles of his deliveries, and kept `em guessing with his minimalist pitches.

"I'm happy for him, to see him back up," Chicago catcher Miguel Montero said. "He's a tough pitcher to face. Obviously he's throwing below hitting speed right now."

Arroyo (2-2) needed more than two years to recover from Tommy John surgery. The Reds gave him what amounted to a final chance this spring, and he's back to fooling `em with his unusual repertoire. Jon Jay saw pitches of 67, 74, 83, 75 and 70 mph during one at-bat.

"I don't want to say I had pinpoint control, but I was throwing the breaking ball down and out where it was almost impossible to hit," Arroyo said. "They knew where I was going, but I still had enough late movement to surprise them."

Arroyo allowed Anthony Rizzo's two-run homer - his third of the series - and struck out seven batters for the first time since May 13, 2014.

"This was the first time he looked like the Bronson of his first time through here," manager Bryan Price said, referring to Arroyo's 2006-13 stay in Cincinnati.

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Raisesl Iglesias gave up a pair of runs in the ninth before finishing off the Reds' 3-7 homestand.

Patrick Kivlehan's bases-loaded double highlighted a four-run sixth inning off John Lackey (1-3) and decided a matchup of up-in-years starters. The 38-year-old Lackey and Arroyo have combined for 793 starts in the majors.

Despite the loss, the defending champs took two of three in the series and moved back into first place in the NL Central. No surprise that it happened in Cincinnati - the Cubs have won 17 of their last 22 at Great American Ball Park. They've taken 20 of their last 25 overall against the Reds.

"I have nothing to complain about," manager Joe Maddon said.

Rizzo extended his hitting streak to 12 games - matching his career high - with his two-run homer in the fourth inning. His three-run shot with two outs in the ninth helped the Cubs rally for a 6-5, 11-inning victory in the series opener. He had another three-run homer during a 12-8 win on Saturday.

The Cubs have homered in their last 15 games at Great American. They hit seven in all during the series.

Cubs offense explodes with three home runs in victory over Reds

Cubs offense explodes with three home runs in victory over Reds

CINCINNATI — After a sputtering start, the Cubs' offense is finally rolling. And it's no surprise that they're breaking out at Great American Ball Park, a place that's just their style.

Wilson Contreras hit his first career grand slam and Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward added three-run shots on Saturday, powering Chicago to a 12-8 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Jake Arrieta (3-0) returned to the mound where he threw his second career no-hitter last April 21 and struggled mightily at the outset, giving up two homers in the first inning. Chicago's offense pulled him through with another homer-filled game at Great American Ball Park. Arrieta helped with an RBI triple.

"We've been making the most of them the last few games," Heyward said of the big hits.

The Cubs have won 20 of their last 24 games against the Reds, including 17 of 21 at Great American. The Cubs have homered in each of their last 14 games in Cincinnati, which suits their power-laden lineup.

"We've had some hiccups, but we've been picked up by our offense," said Arrieta, who gave up five runs in six innings. "As starting pitchers, we have to take advantage of our offense."

In the series opener, Rizzo's three-run homer tied it with two outs in the ninth and set up a 6-5 win in 11 innings. He connected in the first inning on Saturday against left-hander Cody Reed (1-1), who was moved into the Reds' injury-depleted rotation. Contreras hit his grand slam in the second, which was Reed's final inning.

"We score, what, nine runs and we lose? That's tough," Reed said.

Heyward's second homer in two days made it 11-5 in the sixth. The Cubs hit 42 homers against Cincinnati last season, the most by any Reds' opponent in their history. Chicago has six homers in the first two games of the series.

Arrieta was pitching on six days' rest. He needed 53 pitches to get through the first two innings. Joey Votto hit a three-run homer in the first - he drove in five runs overall - and Eugenio Suarez followed with a solo shot.

"I feel like I did my job after that first inning or so," said Arrieta, who struck out eight and didn't walk a batter. "After that, you want to protect the lead and get as deep into the game as you can."

Arrieta knocked in a run with his fourth career triple , a drive to right field that Scooter Gennett misplayed and missed as he tried to make a diving catch on the warning track.