[picappgallerysingle id=”9565230″]You’d think when spring training begins just around the corner, Chicago Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo will have a bigger job to close up the holes in youngster Tyler Colvin’s swing than to fix what went awry in longtime clutch hitter Aramis Ramirez’s hitting mechanics.
Colvin’s a hard, willing worker and will toil with Jaramillo in the batting cage ’till he has blisters on his hands. But Ramirez always marched to the beat of his own drummer, and it worked for him — until 2010. His whole game collapsed, Ramirez swinging like a rusty gate in the first half while allowing too many grounders to slip past him to this left at third, as if he was waving. Worse yet, there was an emotional distance between newcomer Jaramillo and eight-year Cub Ramirez, particularly starting out when Ramirez couldn’t even hit .200 in the first half. He had a minor surge in late summer to lift his homer (25) and RBI (83) totals to respectable numbers, but overall it was Ramirez’s worst full season as a Cub.
Their coming together is a must for 2011.
“I think he’s going to be a new person coming in,” Jaramillo said. “I thnk I made some strides with him, winning his trust. It’s not about me. It’s being there for him. It’s trying to win that man over.
“I wasn’t trying to change him in any way. I just wanted to let him understand about doing it the right way. If you don’t do those fundamaents, you’re not going to hit the right way. His mind wasn’t there (the first half). He has his own way sometimes.
“My part would be to find a way to win that guy over. Make him aware of what he does right so he can repeat it. Then a person understands what you’re doing good and what not doing good.”
Jaramillo needs close up Ramirez’s suddenly off-kilter swing. He struck out 90 times last season after a stretch from 2004-07 when he fanned between 60 and 66 times each season. Ramirez’s on-base percentage plunged to .294 after going over the .352 mark in each of his previous full Cubs campaigns.
Sometimes a veteran like Ramirez must be humbled and go all the way down before he can climb back up again. That won’t be the case with Colvin, who worked hard to build up good muscle in the 2009-10, a key factor in his making the Cubs and slugging 20 homers, most by a rookie Chicago left-handed hitter since Billy Williams’ 25 in 1961. Colvin’s all-ears, quiet-mouth work ethic should serve him well working in his second year with Jaramillo as he attempts to better identify his pitches.
“He’s real coachable,” Jaramillo said of Colvin. “He learned that he was going to have to be mentally tough in the big leagues.
“He’s athletic, he’s got great bat speed. Let him mature. Learn how to get better (pitch) recognition. Get that foot down as a hitter. If you’re late in your timing, you won’t get recognition. He’s got a great base. But the second year sometimes is the toughest.”
Jaramillo planned to start working with Colvin in January. Ticketed as the probable regular right fielder, he spent the first part of the off-season physically recovering from being speared in the chest by a splintered bat down in Florida. Colvin then began working at the Cubs’ Mesa facility with strength coordinator Tim Buss, so he should be in excellent shape, physically and mentally, by the time his hitting coach comes by.
Two key Cubs, two different mindsets, in Ramirez and Colvin. Life will be interesting for Jaramillo.