Rudy Jaramillo and Jim Hendry joined Dave Kaplan for the first hour of Sports Central Thursday night. While the Angels and Yankees battled it out to see who faces the Phillies in the Series, the Cubs’ new hitting coach and general manager talked Chicago Cubs Baseball. Rudy Jaramillo
The Cubs are excited, Lou is excited and Jim Hendry is excited about the team’s new hitting coach. Rudy Jaramillo (pronounced ha-dah-MEE-you) is regarded the best in the business and has a tall task ahead of him turning around an under performing offense.
Rudy Jaramillo decided to leave the Texas Rangers after serving as the team’s hitting coach for 15 years. Dave Kaplan asked him why the Cubs considering he gone have returned to the Rangers for another season.
Jaramillo said he’s always been interested in the Chicago Cubs and there is a good group of players on the current roster. The fans of Chicago are a good group and well educated in the game of baseball. Jaramillo indicated he wants to help the team win.
Jim Hendry was very aggressive according to Dave Kaplan in his pursuit of Jaramillo (a statement Hendry would confirm later in the evening). Jaramillo said Hendry received permission from Jon Daniels (Rangers’ GM) to talk with him about the Cubs’ job. Jaramillo admitted he was going to find out a way to communicate with the Cubs once his current contract expired on October 31 … Hendry just beat him to the punch.
Jaramillo told Kaplan he had already made up his mind he wanted to come to Chicago. He stressed the fact it was good timing with the fact Lou Piniella had an opening on his staff.
Kaplan and Jaramillo discussed Sammy Sosa briefly. Jaramillo spoke highly of Sosa and described him as a great clutch hitter. Jaramillo was Sosa’s minor league hitting instructor … but 2007 was the first time Jaramillo had a chance to coach Sosa at the big league level.
The discussion quickly shifted to Alfonso Soriano. Kaplan reminded Jaramillo about Soriano’s inability to lay off breaking balls in the dirt. Jaramillo said that is purely mental. Guys get lost mechanically and start guessing according to Jaramillo. He indicated the best way to fix that is to “get back to good hitting mechanics.” Jaramillo said he’s got to slow Soriano down and get him back into a good hitting position.
The subject of Bill James and on base percentage was then discussed.
Jaramillo said OBP is huge. Seeing a lot of pitches, making a starter work, getting into a team’s bullpen is the key to winning games. He reiterated the fact the player has to trust his mechanics in order to get on base. Jaramillo went on to say with more base runners hitters get better pitches and keep pressure on pitchers.
Jaramillo has developed a Five-Step System to help all hitters improve.
The Cubs’ new hitting coach said hitters must learn to trust themselves in a two-strike count. He went on to explain hitters will swing early in the count if they do not trust themselves and their mechanics.
Dave Kaplan spoke with Mark DeRosa following the Cubs’ hiring Jaramillo. DeRosa told Kaplan the guys are going to love that guy but he is going to push them.
Jaramillo spoke highly of DeRosa. He said DeRosa was not in a good hitting position before his time in Texas. He indicated his mind was there but he was not swinging at strikes. Jaramillo said DeRosa was swinging at balls in the dirt as well. Once DeRosa started swinging at strikes he started producing.
After a brief discussion about Ryan Theriot, the talk shifted to Milton Bradley.
Rudy Jaramillo knew he had to win Milton Bradley over … and he did. He took time but he was able to get Bradley to trust him. Jaramillo described himself as being very aggressive, up front and will tell the truth. Jaramillo reiterated what he said in his press conference on Wednesday about Bradley. He felt he built a great rapport with Bradley … and it got better as the season progressed. Jaramillo made a point of the fact he had no problems with Milton Bradley.
Kaplan asked Jaramillo about Geovany Soto. Jaramillo said he did not watch many National League games and is not familiar with Soto yet.
Rudy Jaramillo finished his time by saying he is a tireless worker and he expects the kids to work. The players must be committed to work and with the day games it could be a challenge. They will have to either work before the game or stay after.
Rudy Jaramillo is the only hitting coach in big league baseball that is fluent in Spanish and English. He said he loves teaching in Spanish but stressed, “I’m tough on ‘em”. Jaramillo said he is going to do everything he can to win the players over. Jaramillo hopes he will be able to make a difference. He said Jim Hendry has been outstanding and he is looking forward to working with Lou Piniella.
Jim Hendry joined Dave Kaplan shortly after the bottom of the hour. Kaplan and Hendry began their discussion talking about Rudy Jaramillo.
Hendry sounded very upbeat while discussing his new hitting coach. He said Jaramillo’s reputation has been excellent for so long … and not just with the players. Jeff Pentland raved about Jaramillo for many years.
Hendry explained while the Cubs’ brass was at Fitch Park last week, Chuck Wasserstrom (Cubs’ manager of baseball information) was on the Internet when the news that Jaramillo would not be returning to Texas next season hit the wire. Wasserstrom announced it to the group and Hendry called Jon Daniels the next day to ask for permission to speak with Jaramillo. Hendry said he talked with Jaramillo that night.
Kaplan asked Hendry at what point did he realize 2009 was not going well. Hendry explained the Cubs had a good year in 2008 and did a lot of prep work for the 2009 season. They thought they had a good team coming out of Spring Training. He went on to say they did not factor in five or six players have a down year.
Hendry reminded Kaplan that on August 7 the Cubs were tied for first place … and it all went south for the next 30 days. He thought they would finish strong like they had in the first two years under Lou Piniella but it just got worse. Hendry did not think “gloom and doom” until September.
The conversation soon switched to Milton Bradley. Hendry told Kaplan several people in the Cubs’ organization worked to make sure Bradley would fit with the Cubs. They checked with the Rangers and San Diego (Hendry quickly pointed out Kevin Towers said before he was fired that he would welcome Bradley back) and the entire process took three to four months. Hendry admitted they took a calculated gamble. They were concerned about him staying healthy but not that he wouldn’t produce.
Tom Ricketts will be announced soon as the new owner of the Cubs and Hendry is looking forward to working with him.
Kaplan asked if the Cubs were going to pursue a true leadoff hitter this off-season. Hendry said a lot will depend on what personnel they still have. They have had preliminary discussions about their off-season plans but will firm them up during the organizational meetings the first week of November.
Hendry explained trade possibilities sometimes come out of nowhere that can change everything … like Derrek Lee in 2003.
Starlin Castro has received a lot of press over the past few weeks. Hendry said he is really good but reminded Kaplan that the Cubs are not hyping him, others are, like they did with Corey Patterson. The Cubs do not want to rush Castro offensively. Rudy Jaramillo will determine if Castro is with the big league team at some point during the 2010 season.
Jim Hendry finished by saying there will be a press conference in the near future officially announcing Tom Ricketts as the new owner of the Cubs. Ricketts has a great passion for the Cubs and (as mentioned) will be at the organizational meetings in November. Hendry sounded excited about the team’s new owner and briefly discussed his knowledge of the Ricketts Family from his time in Omaha.
Both Rudy Jaramillo and Jim Hendry have their work cut out for them.
This winter should be anything but boring …