Whoever's manager, Jaramillo sees future with Cubs

Whoever's manager, Jaramillo sees future with Cubs

Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010
11:20 PM
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

SAN DIEGO Rudy Jaramillo spent 15 years doing the same job in his native Texas, where hes lived almost his entire life. He once interviewed with the New York Mets when they were looking for a manager, but will always be viewed as a hitting coach, perhaps the best of his generation.

Jaramillo, a man whose entire philosophy is based on routine, left his comfort zone to move to Chicago. He turned 60 last week, and has worked with three different managers during his first season with the Cubs, something no one would have predicted when he left the Rangers last October.

No matter who manages the Cubs in 2011, Jaramillo expects to be there watching Marlon Byrd in the batting cage, analyzing Alfonso Sorianos swing and monitoring the development of second-year players Starlin Castro and Tyler Colvin.

I dont worry about those things, Jaramillo said. Thats their decision. I signed here for three years and I plan on coming back no matter whos here. And if it doesnt (work out), then I know I can find a job somewhere else. I dont even think about that.

I came here to be a Cub. I love being a Cub. No doubt its a challenge I want to do something for this organization that has never been done before.

General manager Jim Hendry has said that he wont discuss next years coaching staff until the manager is in place. But this isnt like college basketball, where the new head coach can bring on three or four of his own hand-picked assistants.

Jaramillo is under contract through 2012 and has a reputation that grew while working with Ivan Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez and Alex Rodriguez in Texas, where his hitters won 17 Silver Slugger awards.

He reaches every guy in a different way, Cubs infielder Jeff Baker said. Hes got his core beliefs (and) system, (but) the thing that makes it special is hes able (to) make it personalized for every player.

Hes got no ego. Hes approachable. He knows when to leave you alone. Sometimes he lets you hit your way out of stuff. Sometimes hell come and say, Hey, look at this. (Its) only been a year a lot of guys are starting to connect with him. (Its) only going to get better.

The Cubs hyped the Jaramillo deal as if they actually signed a new No. 4 hitter for their lineup. During spring training, reporters were already trying to gauge the Jaramillo effect after the teams first exhibition game in Arizona.

Ask me in September, Derrek Lee said that afternoon. Its just too early. I dont think he can even say hes got everything hes taught us soaked in already. It takes time. Hes going to keep preaching his message and you take what works for you.

That was just Lee reminding the media to not get ahead of itself and not evidence of some rift Jaramillo had with veterans in the clubhouse.

But by the final week of the season, the Cubs have revealed themselves to be at best an average team offensively. They began Tuesday with these rankings in the National League: sixth in batting average (.258); tied for ninth in home runs (146); 10th in runs scored (669); and 12th in on-base percentage (.320).

I got to win their trust and make them believe in what Im teaching, Jaramillo said. As a team, were playing well (in September). Everybodys pitching in and thats what you want but we got to do it when it counts.

Jaramillo makes direct eye contact with you when he talks, and he speaks with great confidence. But he couldnt prevent Lee from being traded to the Atlanta Braves or keep Aramis Ramirez healthy for an entire season. He says he needs to do a better job in 2011.

We got a lot of work to do, Jaramillo said, but Im here to get it done. Good things will happen.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

From ‘When It Happens’ to ‘Where It Happens,’ Cubs mining next generation of talent

From ‘When It Happens’ to ‘Where It Happens,’ Cubs mining next generation of talent

MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs turned Theo Epstein’s “Baseball is Better” speech from his first Wrigley Field press conference into a marketing pitch that might distract fans for a moment from an awful big-league product.          

The 2017 “That’s Cub” ad campaign actually uses what started organically years ago within the farm system, two words that recognized a great at-bat or a heads-up play or a defensive stop.    

Business vs. baseball is no longer the dominant storyline it had been during the early phases of the Wrigleyvile rebuild. Business and baseball are booming for what’s become Major League Baseball’s version of the Golden State Warriors.

It’s just interesting that a franchise valued at north of $2 billion has found so much inspiration on the back fields of this spring-training complex, where staffers you wouldn’t recognize get to work before dawn and players you’ve never heard of dream about their big break.

It’s not just drafting Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber. And trading for Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and Addison Russell. And hiring a manager obsessed with T-shirts. Baseball operations became a marketing department, selling prospects to Cub fans, the Chicago media and the gurus putting together the rankings – and trying to get buy-in from players who all think they belong in The Show.

Minor-league field coordinator Tim Cossins gets credit for “When It Happens,” a theme that didn’t simply revolve around 1908 and the championship drought. Jason McLeod, the senior vice president who oversees scouting and player development, suggested pairing the W flag with that phrase, and it became this ubiquitous idea around the team.   

“We tied everything into it,” McLeod said Sunday at Sloan Park. “When that time comes, when it happens, can you lay the bunt down? When it happens, can you execute a pitch? Can you go in and pinch-run, steal the base when the time comes?

“The big ‘When It Happens’ is when we win, of course, but for us in (player development), it was about everything that we’re going to be asked to do in that moment: Are you going to be ready when it happens?”

Now what? The defending World Series champs are going with: “Where It Happens.”

A bullet point from Epstein’s bio in this year’s media guide references how his first three first-round draft picks with the Cubs “combined to set up the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th inning of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series when Schwarber singled and (Albert) Almora pinch-ran, moved to second on Bryant’s deep fly to center, and scored on Ben Zobrist’s double.”

“We’re never going to forget about the importance of young players,” Epstein said. “There’s definitely a lot of talented, interesting prospects still in the system and sometimes they get a little overshadowed because of the star young players we have at the big-league level and how quickly some of those guys moved through the system. But there’s a lot of talent there.

“We’re going to lean on young players beyond our prospects, not just in trades, but also to provide organizational depth and also to serve as the next generation, the next infusion of talent at the appropriate time.

“But it’s a process. There’s going to be a lot of ups and downs in development for all these guys. And we have a ton of faith in our player development operation to help these guys along the way.”

So Ian Happ will start the season one phone call away at Triple-A Iowa and see if some combination of injuries and his switch-hitting skills and defensive versatility gets him to the North Side at some point. Or used as a trade chip for pitching, the way third baseman Jeimer Candelario and catcher Victor Caratini appear to be blocked.

Joe Maddon already compared Eloy Jimenez – who can’t legally buy a beer in Wrigleyville yet – to a young Miguel Cabrera or Edgar Martinez. The Cubs are practically begging for someone like Eddie Butler to pitch his way into the 2018 rotation.

By Monday morning, when the full squad reconvenes after a weekend trip to Las Vegas, the Cubs could start making cuts and shaping their Opening Night roster. But the Cubs are going to need so much more than the 25 players who will be introduced next Sunday at Busch Stadium. Maddon used 26 pitchers and 149 different lineups last season. This is “Where It Happens.”

“If this particular group of youngsters were in a different organization that had a greater need right now, you’d probably hear a lot more about these guys,” Maddon said. “But the fact that they’re stuck behind a Bryant and a Russell and a Javy (Baez) and a Rizzo and a (Willson) Contreras and a Schwarber, et cetera, et cetera, it becomes more difficult to really push or project upon these guys.

“But I think these young guys have gone about their business really well. If it’s bothering them or if they’re concerned about that, they’re not showing that. I think they’ve put their best foot forward.”

Joe Maddon doesn’t have any concerns about new Cubs closer Wade Davis

Joe Maddon doesn’t have any concerns about new Cubs closer Wade Davis

MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs studied all the MRIs and analyzed every pitch Wade Davis threw last season, poring over the information on the All-Star closer. During the winter meetings, Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore even took the unusual step of allowing the Cubs to give Davis a physical exam.  

The Jorge Soler trade wouldn’t be announced until athletic trainer PJ Mainville met with Davis at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley. The Cubs got another read on the flexor strain in his right forearm that twice put Davis on the disabled list last season.

Davis now has a 19.64 ERA through five Cactus League appearances – and the complete confidence of a manager who isn’t connecting those dots.

“The injury’s really not an issue,” Joe Maddon said Sunday at the Sloan Park complex. “He feels really good right now. He kind of thought that whole thing was a little bit overblown last year, according to (what he told) me. Because even in talking to him in the offseason: ‘I’m fine. I’m good. I feel really good.’”

Maddon managed the Tampa Bay Rays while Davis broke into the big leagues as a starter and began the transition to reliever. Everything clicked in Kansas City’s bullpen, with Davis blowing away hitters and notching the last out of the 2015 World Series.

“I’m watching him,” Maddon said. “He’s throwing the ball really well easily. That’s what’s really encouraging to me. From the side, there’s no bumping and grinding and…” Maddon made a grunting noise to illustrate his point: “There’s none of that. It’s easy. I look up at the gun and I’m seeing 94, 95 and sometimes 96 (mph). It’s like: Wow, I have never seen him do that in camp.”

Across the last three seasons, Davis allowed three home runs while piling up 234 strikeouts in almost 183 innings. This spring, he has twice gotten only one out, like Saturday’s 29-pitch, four-run appearance against the Colorado Rockies. Overall in March, he’s given up eight earned runs, nine hits and five walks in 3.2 innings.  

“Honestly, I’ve known him long enough that it’s not” a concern, Maddon said. “You’re not going to believe this, but he’s actually throwing better than he normally does in spring training. The biggest problem he’s having right now is command.

“Velocity looks good. The break on the breaking ball looks good. He’s just not throwing the ball where he wants it. And this guy is normally the kind of pitcher that can dot it up really well.

“But everything else looks really good to me, (because) I had him back with the Rays and in spring training you always saw him throwing like 86, 87, 88 (mph). I’m seeing easy 94-95. I’m seeing sharp break on some breaking stuff. It’s just bad counts and bad command right now.”

This isn’t the Cubs saying Carlos Marmol or Jose Veras is our closer. A guy with a 0.84 ERA in 23 career playoff appearances doesn’t care about Cactus League stats. As long as Davis is healthy, there should be no doubts about the ninth inning. Check back next week amid the sea of red at Busch Stadium.

“A lot of it’s just an adrenaline rush sometimes,” Maddon said. “A lot it’s just a moment that you can’t recreate here. You can’t do it. It’s impossible.”