Has Aramis Ramirez gone to Rudy Jaramillo for help on his hitting? I know he's struggled, and my golfing buddies insist some veterans refuse a new hitting coach's approach. What's the situation here? -- Don D., Galena, Ill.
Your buddies are partially right. Ramirez has not sought out Jaramillo, and neither has Derrek Lee. Both players feel they know their swings better than anybody else.
"I am my own hitting coach," Ramirez said. "I can listen to Rudy. I know what I have to do to be ready."
They will listen, but whether they adopt any of his advice is a matter of trust. Jaramillo is the new guy, has an impeccable track record, and some different ideas. He's trying to win them over. Some players are open to suggestions. So far, Jaramillo has helped Ryan Theriot (.329), Marlon Byrd (.341), Geovany Soto (.313) and Alfonso Soriano (.327). Jaramillo is constantly working with Kosuke Fukudome (.316) to keep communication going. Mark DeRosa said Jaramillo saved his career (and don't look at this year's numbers, since DeRosa is sidelined with a wrist problem). But if Ramirez and Lee, who are batting .159 and .229, respectively, feel they know their swings best, they won't make any changes.
"I work with Rudy," Lee said. "I still feel I'm my best hitting coach. I listen to how my body feels and I know what I need to do. Rudy's there for support. I've had this swing for a long time. I know what gets me in trouble. I get in these funks sometimes, and I have to work my way out."
Right now, Jaramillo is trying to prove to both veterans he knows what he's doing. Go back and look at those batting averages again. What would you do?
On May 3, you said in respect to Starlin Castro, "Slow down, Castro is not coming up this week or next." Castro was called up four days later. Do you have contacts within the organization to talk to or do you make assumptions on your own? -- Thomas M., Peoria, Ill.
On May 3, I had confirmation from five highly placed Cubs officials who said they were going to wait with Castro. He's young, they said, and needs more experience, especially on defense. They didn't want to call him up too soon, because they wanted to make sure when Castro did arrive, he would succeed, not regress. The attitude changed after the Cubs were swept in Pittsburgh. I trust my sources, have talked to all of them since the Castro callup, and know some still have reservations about the move. The Cubs evidently have decided they're willing to live with the growing pains.
Have a question about the Cubs?
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I get an eerie feeling when I think about Carlos Zambrano's move to the bullpen. It reminds me of Kerry Wood's move to prolong his career in the face of arm troubles. Can you promise me there's nothing more behind Z's early struggles and his stint in the bullpen than has been advertised? It'd help me sleep better at night. -- Jason F., Chatham, Ill.
Relax. Zambrano was moved solely because the Cubs needed a reliable setup pitcher. Having Big Z and Carlos Marmol in the 'pen has provided a pretty solid 1-2 punch. Wood's situation was different, because he was coming off surgery on his right shoulder and it was determined that he couldn't go deep in games.
Why doesn't Lou Piniella get angry once in awhile to fire up the troops? It seems as though he's lost his zeal to beef with the umpires. The Cubbies need that once in a while, or Piniella to get on the players to get them fired up. -- Frank G., Niota, Ill.
Challenging umpires is different than getting on the players. Kicking dirt and screaming at an ump makes for good video clips and that's it. Piniella hasn't lost his desire to win. He's also handled matters with players behind closed doors and away from the cameras.
Whatever happened to B.J. Ryan, and how is he doing with the Cubs in the Minors? Has there been any talk of bringing him back to the Majors? -- Hani K., Hoffman Estates, Ill.
Ryan was signed to a Minor League deal in 2009 and released. I'm running your question because it seems several others missed that transaction.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.