Cubs’ call-ups sold on Manny Ramirez’s value as a mentor
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter August 7, 2014 8:03PM
Updated: September 9, 2014 6:29AM
DENVER — Could one of the key minor leaguers in the Cubs’ rebuilding process be a player with a .176 average and one home run at Class AAA Iowa?
Heralded rookie Javy Baez sounds ready to make that argument, the way he spoke this week about former Iowa teammate Manny Ramirez and the Manny-as-mentor program/experiment.
“He was great. I learned a lot of stuff from him,” Baez said of Ramirez, who in June joined Baez and other top prospects at Iowa as a player/coach in a much-criticized signing by team president Theo Epstein.
“He helped my approach to right-center, [following] his routine every day, going to the cage, the way he works,” Baez said. “He’s always got a bat in his hand doing something, either swinging the bat or just hitting in the cage. He talked to a lot of the guys. A lot of people learned from him.”
Infielder/outfielder Arismendy Alcantara also said he benefited from Ramirez on the way to a July 9 debut that turned into an unplanned extended big-league stay.
The Cubs’ top prospect, Kris Bryant, and No. 2 outfield prospect, Jorge Soler, have been promoted to Iowa since Ramirez got there — and have thrived. Whether that has anything to do with Ramirez, Baez seems to believe it’s no coincidence.
Ramirez doesn’t impose himself on players, they say, or try to suggest changes to swings or fundamentals.
“He just talked to me about my approach,” Baez said, “and how the pitchers were kind of pitching around me and to the other guys [such as Soler and Bryant]. So that’s why I started taking more pitches and swinging at pitches in the zone.”
Baez’s walk rate rose slightly in June, and his strikeout totals declined each month since May.
Since the initial media blitz and scrutiny, Ramirez has managed to go almost under the radar at Iowa, belying his “Manny Being Manny” reputation.
His lack of playing time, lack of on-field impact, and nearly two weeks on the DL for a calf injury (activated Thursday) might have something to do with it, too. He also doesn’t seem to be seeking attention.
“I know when I’ve been around, Manny was great,” said Jason McLeod, the Cubs’ senior vice-president for scouting and player development. “His accessibility, openness, candor and willingness to help.”