Healthy Ramirez eyeing rebound
By Gordon Wittenmyer Staff Reporteremail@example.com February 19, 2011 11:25PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
MESA, Ariz. — Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez unpacked, settled into his familiar locker stall at Fitch Park on his first day of spring training and declared his thumb, shoulder and other sources of past aches ‘‘100 percent healthy.’’
As much as he says that’s a key to rebounding from a largely disappointing 2010 season, it well might be the key to whether this is his last season with the Cubs.
‘‘There’s no other place I want to be. We’ll see,’’ said Ramirez, who’s in the final guaranteed year of his contract, with a $16 million team option looming after this season. ‘‘I don’t know what they think. We’ll see what happens.’’
Ramirez, 32, averaged 32 home runs and 105 RBI in his first five seasons as the Cubs’ cleanup hitter before dropping to averages of 20 homers and 74 RBI the last two seasons as injuries took their toll.
But if his offseason preparation — he said he put on six to eight productive pounds — and the extra work he plans to put in this season keep him healthy, he might extend his Cubs career by at least another season.
As big as that team option might look based on the last two seasons, it’s hard to imagine replacing a healthy, productive Ramirez with someone from what is expected to be a mediocre pool of potential free agents next fall.
‘‘I just want to go out there and try to win ballgames,’’ Ramirez said. ‘‘Whatever happens, happens. That’s not stuff that you can control. The only thing I can control is to go out there and play the game.’’
Jobs at stake?
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, who praised the offseason work of general manager Jim Hendry, was noncommittal about whether front-office jobs might be on the line based on the team’s performance this season.
‘‘We expect the best out of our baseball department every season,’’ he said. ‘‘This season is no different than last season or next season. We expect everyone to do well. I wouldn’t read any more into it than that.’’
As for Hendry’s ability to add first baseman Carlos Pena, starting pitcher Matt Garza and setup man Kerry Wood for a combined commitment of $12.45 million this season, Ricketts sounded impressed.
‘‘I give Jim all the credit for the offseason; he did a great job,’’ Ricketts said. ‘‘I think the work he did to get those players in and the other guys that are here, that will make us a real contender in 2011.’’
Defense on his mind
Left fielder Alfonso Soriano said he plans to continue improving his defense and doesn’t have any plans of being forced to the bench in the late innings for defensive reasons.
‘‘When I started working on my defense [last] season, my defense started getting better, so I want to have the same routine,’’ said Soriano, who indicated he continued some of that work into the winter. ‘‘I want to work on my defense every day . . . and to play in the ninth inning.’’