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Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo has tough time with weak personnel

Chicago Cubs host OaklAthletics--Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo watches as Mike Fontenot takes batting practice. (Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)

Chicago Cubs host the Oakland Athletics--Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo watches as Mike Fontenot takes batting practice. (Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)

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Record when facing a left-handed starter.

Updated: July 9, 2012 6:20AM

MILWAUKEE — The late nights are piling up for Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo.

‘‘Oh, man, no doubt about it,’’ the workaholic coach said. ‘‘A lot of lost sleep, just thinking of ways to try to make this thing better.’’

It certainly was never like this in Texas.

In 15 years as the Texas Rangers’ hitting coach, Jaramillo became the gold standard of his profession. His teams finished among the top five in the majors in on-base-plus-slugging 10 times

It made him the highest-paid hitting coach at $800,000 a year when the Cubs signed him to a three-year deal after their light-hitting 2009 season.

Now? He can’t help but laugh a little when asked how strange it must be, these last three years with the Cubs’ ever-changing, always-struggling roster of hitters.

‘‘I guess sometimes you don’t know what you’re getting into,’’ he said. ‘‘But that’s why I came here to be a Cub as a coach. No doubt I made a difference in Texas, and you try to come here and do the same thing.

‘‘I’ve been in the game a long time, and good things have continued to happen to me. They always have. I just keep that attitude and the fact that things will get better. And they will.’’

They can’t get much worse.

Jaramillo didn’t exactly inherit a juggernaut. And soon after he was hired, the disastrous Milton Bradley was traded and replaced with the pedestrian Marlon Byrd. Then Derrek Lee was traded during Jaramillo’s first summer on the job.

The Cubs have yet to finish in the top half of the majors in runs, on-base percentage or OPS since his arrival.

And since the new front office allowed Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena to walk out the door as free agents without replacing either with a proven hitter, it has gone downhill fast.

‘‘You make no excuses,’’ Jaramillo said. ‘‘But the team is the team, and you go with what you have, and you keep working and you try to make adjustments and you keep trying to be supportive and keep teaching. You can’t look back.

‘‘It’s challenging every year. You just keep coming to work and trying to be upbeat and positive, and the only thing that counts is these young men.’’

Jaramillo, 61, doesn’t know whether he’ll be back next year. That’s something the organization figures to address after the season and something Jaramillo says he isn’t thinking about.

What’s certain is that he still loves what he does, he plans to keep coaching beyond this season — wherever that might be — and he expresses no regrets in coming to Chicago.

And this: ‘‘He’s the same,’’ left fielder Alfonso Soriano said of the coach he also knew from two seasons in Texas together. ‘‘It’s not on him; it’s on us. Sometimes it’s like we try too much. It’s not like we’re not doing the job or he’s not doing the job. Sometimes it’s mental, and we don’t trust ourselves.’’

Never mind the fact that Soriano was the only guy on the roster this season who’d ever hit more than 25 home runs or driven in 90 runs.

‘‘Rudy’s one of the best in the game,’’ said Ramirez, now with the Milwaukee Brewers. ‘‘But you’ve got to have talent. If you don’t have the talent, if you don’t have the personnel, you’re not going to be successful. I don’t care how good a hitting coach you are, you’ve got to have the personnel to succeed.’’

While it’s hard not to wonder if this downhill run in Chicago has damaged Jaramillo’s reputation, rival executives understand the cards he has been dealt.

‘‘No,’’ one National League team official said. ‘‘He’s a good hitting guy. He should never have a problem getting jobs.’’

Players agree.

‘‘I don’t think it’s going to damage anything he’s done in the past,’’ Ramirez said. ‘‘We all know him. Every single player knows he’s one of the best.’’

Said Jaramillo: ‘‘I’m not worried about that at all. That’s not important to me. What’s important to me is these young men. The team and these guys. I’ve already had 22 years in the big leagues; I’ve already had a great career. And no doubt I want to finish with a great career. 

‘‘We all take it hard, but we keep grinding. You become a man, and you don’t make excuses about anything. And I’m totally accountable, believe me. I’m accountable to myself and whatever happens.’’

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