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.

For Cubs, winter meetings will be all about the hunt for pitching 

For Cubs, winter meetings will be all about the hunt for pitching 

As the Cubs prepare for the winter meetings outside Washington, D.C., their messaging might as well be: It’s the pitching, stupid.

This is an arms race that will never end, the Cubs trying to defend their first World Series title in 108 years, build out a bullpen that looked pretty thin by November and target the kind of young starter who could help anchor their rotation for years to come, ensuring Wrigleyville remains baseball’s biggest party.

The Cubs signed Brian Duensing to a one-year, $2 million contract on Friday, placing a small bet on a lefty specialist who spent parts of last season on the Triple-A level but made a good enough impression during his 13-plus innings with the Baltimore Orioles.

As executives, scouts, agents and reporters begin to flood into National Harbor on Sunday, the Cubs will intensify their search for pitching, everything from headliners to insurance policies to prospects.

“That’s been the significant bulk of our efforts,” general manager Jed Hoyer said, “It’s definitely not going to be through lack of trying on our part to make that kind of deal. That’s now. That’s at the deadline.”  

The Cubs are preparing for Opening Day 2018, when Jake Arrieta will probably be in a different uniform after signing his megadeal, John Lackey might be kicking back in Texas and enjoying retirement and Jon Lester will be 34 years old with maybe 2,300 innings on his odometer. 

The Cubs have unwavering faith in their pitching infrastructure at the major-league level, from the scouting and analytic perspectives that identified the right sign-and-flip deals during the rebuilding years to the coaching staff that helped mold Kyle Hendricks into a Cy Young Award finalist and a World Series Game 7 starter.

Mike Montgomery notched the final out against the Cleveland Indians and the Cubs see him as their next big project. The lefty checks so many of their boxes, from age (27) to size (6-foot-5) to pedigree (former first-round pick/top prospect) to the change-of-scenery confidence boost/mental reset.

Forget about the White Sox trading Chris Sale to the North Side and don’t just think about obvious names or trade partners. Maybe it’s making a deal for a guy you never heard of before and sifting through the non-tender bin. (As expected, the Cubs offered contracts to arbitration-eligible pitchers Arrieta, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Justin Grimm before Friday’s deadline. Their 40-man roster stands at 35 after non-tendering lefties Gerardo Concepcion and Zac Rosscup, right-hander Conor Mullee and infielder Christian Villanueva.)

Remember how team president Theo Epstein framed the Montgomery trade with the Seattle Mariners this summer – comparing him to All-Star reliever Andrew Miller – and that gives you an idea of how they can address their pitching deficit this winter. 

“If your scouts do a good job of identifying the guys who are trending in the right direction – and you’re willing to take a shot – sometimes there’s a big payoff at the end,” Epstein said.   

While the Cubs did Jason Hammel a favor by cutting him loose and allowing him to explore the market as one of the best pitchers in an extremely weak class of free agents, Montgomery has only 23 big-league starts on his resume. 

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

The Cubs had five starters make at least 29 starts this year, while four starters accounted for 30-plus starts in 2015, a remarkable run that led to 200 wins.

“As we’ve talked about so many times,” Hoyer said, “we do have an imbalance in our organization – hitting vs. pitching – and we’re trying to make sure we can accumulate as much pitching depth as possible. 

“We were very healthy this year, which was wonderful and a big part of why we won the World Series. I don’t think you can always count on that kind of health every single year. Building up a reservoir of depth – preferably guys you can option (to the minors) – is something (we’re trying) to accomplish.”  

The Cubs have Jorge Soler stuck in a crowded outfield plus the types of interesting prospects who appear to be blocked – catcher Victor Caratini, third baseman Jeimer Candelario, infielder/outfielder Ian Happ – to make relatively painless trades for pitching (if not the kind of blockbuster deal that dominates coverage of the winter meetings).

Lefty reliever Brett Cecil getting a four-year, $30.5 million deal and no-trade protection from the St. Louis Cardinals became another sign of how shallow this free-agent pool is for starting pitchers and a reflection of a postseason where the bullpen became a major storyline.

The idea of Kenley Jansen intrigues the Cubs – and Aroldis Chapman made a favorable impression during his three-plus months with the team – but Epstein’s front office already made the major upgrades for 2017 by spending nearly $290 million on free agents after the 2015 playoff run. Philosophically, the Cubs also see smarter long-term investments than trying to win a bidding war for a guy who might throw 70 innings a year. 

With that in mind, the Cubs could get creative and have looked at free agent Greg Holland, a two-time All-Star closer with the Kansas City Royals who didn’t pitch this year after having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.  

Remember that Chapman left the New York Yankees and joined a team that had a 56-1 record when leading entering the ninth inning. If Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. can’t handle the late shifts, then the Cubs could always go out and trade for another closer in the middle of a pennant race.    

The Cubs have the luxuries of time, zero pressure from ownership, their fan base or the Chicago media and a stacked, American League-style lineup. 

“Right now, we could go play from an offensive standpoint and feel very good about our group,” Hoyer said. “We’re going to still continue to look to improve the depth in our bullpen, improve the depth in our starting rotation. Those are things that probably never go away. You probably never stop trying to build that depth.” 

What will LeBron James wear to pay up on Cubs World Series bet with Dwyane Wade?

What will LeBron James wear to pay up on Cubs World Series bet with Dwyane Wade?

LeBron James is coming to town, and he will be all decked out in Cubs gear.

The Cavs are in Chicago to take on the Bulls Friday night at the United Center and it's time for LeBron to pay up on his World Series bet with Dwyane Wade.

The two former teammates made the wager during the World Series as LeBron's hometown Indians took on Wade's hometown Cubs, with the loser wearing the winning baseball team's gear when they showed up in the opposing city. This is LeBron's first trip to Chicago this season.

Wade and LeBron already acknowledged they're having fun with this and have a whole spectacle planned with a national TV audience.

LeBron told the Akron Beacon Journal he's not going to try to take the easy way out and just toss on a Cubs jersey. He is planning socks, hat, pants and possibly more. But he won't wear cleats or bring a glove with him.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

When the Cubs won it all a month ago Friday, Wade posted an Instagram photo of LeBron wearing a Cubs uniform:

And ESPN had a cutout of LeBron sporting a No. 23 Cubs road gray jersey outside the United Center Friday morning:

CSN Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill wonders whether LeBron will don signature Joe Maddon glasses, too.

This is gonna be fun, you guys.