Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011Posted: 6:40 PM
By Patrick Mooney
MESA, Ariz. Whether or not you think Aramis Ramirez gets his uniform dirty often enough, you cannot argue with the numbers when hes healthy. And you may not like Alfonso Sorianos contract, but forget it that money is already spent.
The Cubs can talk about young players and the system but they need to maximize Ramirez and Soriano to contend. Combined, they will make more than 33 million this season. They understand that things arent getting any easier.
Im 100 percent, Ramirez said Saturday. I just got to stay on top of everything my shoulder, my thumb, everything. I just got to work a little harder. The older you get, its a little tougher.
Back in the Dominican Republic this winter, Ramirez added several pounds on purpose, while Soriano focused on his legs, even if he will never run the way he once did.
Ramirez will turn 33 in June, but this will be his 14th season in the majors, and it has taken a toll on his body. He has played more than 145 games just three times in his career. The Cubs hold an option for 2012 either pay him 14.6 million or buy him out for 2 million.
Theres no other place that I want to be, Ramirez said. But well see what happens. I dont know what they think. Im still under contract for this year.
The 35-year-old Soriano is halfway through his 136 million deal. The Cubs will have to think about pulling Soriano late in close games, but he will continue to work on his defense and wants to be a nine-inning player every day, though they have three other outfielders.
Soriano has dealt with the loss of his mother, who died of a heart attack last month in the Dominican Republic.
My mom is everything for me, he said.
Soriano still had a big smile and a handshake for everyone on Saturday morning, and he automatically is an energetic presence in the room.
Soriano just checked his numbers from last year 24 homers in less than 500 at-bats. That is a unique skill. He drove in 79 runs, which isnt overwhelming, but its also the highest total during his four years in Chicago.
Why not? he said when asked about hitting for more power.
It is the same calculus for Ramirez. He believes he will produce if he can avoid the collection of injuries that conspired against him last season. He was hitting under .200 after the Fourth of July, and was ultimately limited to 124 games. Yet, he still reached 25 homers for the eighth time in his career.
The next free-agent class of third basemen is weak, and its easy to imagine Ramirez being the most coveted if hes cut loose. He doesnt know how much longer he wants to play, but could force the Cubs to pick up the option if he can put together another good year.
Mike Quade talks fast and he speaks with his hands. Standing beneath a gray sky, the Cubs manager addressed his players on one field at Fitch Park before the teams first full-squad workout.
Quade did not stay on the sidelines Saturday, taking a lead off second base while demonstrating one drill for bunt defense.
Im not reinventing the game, he said. But we wanted to talk specifically about something as simple as a No. 1 bunt play with runners at first and second. (They) ran it for Casey Stengel. So Mike Quades not coming in here changing stuff. But there are points of emphasis within that play that I think give you an edge.
The veterans responded well to Quade during his six-week audition last season, and the next seven months will depend in part on how he connects with players like Ramirez and Soriano. His first speech to the entire group contained a simple message.
We touched on effort, Quade said, and the fact that I dont think theres any shortcuts to being a good team.
PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.