Notes: Ramirez playing hurt

Notes: Ramirez playing hurt

CHICAGO -- Aramis Ramirez is hurt, and the only way he can heal his sore right leg is to take extended time off. Right now, the Chicago Cubs can't afford to have him on the bench.

"He's not 100 percent, and he hasn't been 100 percent for a while," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said of Ramirez. "There's a couple guys who I told to play smart because we can't afford to lose them.

"It may look like they're not hustling, but [Ramirez] hurt his leg hustling out a play to first base about a month ago," Baker said. "In order for us not to lose him for two weeks or more, we urged him to play smart. It's going to look bad, and sometimes the fans are going to think he's not hustling. But that's what he has to do."

Ramirez hurt his quad running to first base in the Cubs' July 27 game against San Francisco.

"We're lucky to have him now," Baker said. "We have to find a way to keep him in the lineup."

But what about people who might think Ramirez isn't hustling on the bases or making defensive plays?

"They don't know about it," Ramirez said. "That's what happens in here, in the clubhouse. They don't need to know about it. Everybody plays through injuries, and I'm not the only one."

There's no time to rest. With 7 1/2 weeks to play, the Cubs have an outside shot at the National League Wild Card spot.

"I can't [rest] right now," Ramirez said. "Right now, we're struggling, and I know they need me out there. My team needs me out there, and I'm playing through it."

His leg also bothers him when he hits. It's his back leg, and he uses it to provide some of his power. Ramirez entered Wednesday's game 0-for-15 in his past four games, batting .301 overall with 28 homers and 81 RBIs. He's 6-for-30 in eight games this month. Ramirez also has made 15 errors in 105 games. Last year, he was charged with 10 errors in 144 games.

"Any time you have an injury with your legs -- you use your legs for everything, to field, throw, to hit," Ramirez said. "It affects everything you do on the field."

There's nothing the medical staff can do.

"If you play every day, you won't see any improvement," Ramirez said. "Any time you play, you put pressure on it. I guess you have to deal with it."

Leadoff man: Matt Murton led off Wednesday for the first time this season, making his 12th start. The rookie outfielder has batted first before, but that was when he was 16. The key is simply to get on base.

"That's what I'm trying to do every time I get up there," Murton said. "I'm still learning how to drive the baseball. Nothing's going to change for me today -- same approach. I'll stay in the middle of the field and work counts and get good strikes to hit and get on base to set up the lineup."

Baker picked Murton because Matt Lawton is 2-for-11 lifetime against Wednesday's Reds starter, Eric Milton.

"Murton's speed and the fact that he can get some base hits, we just decided to try him," Baker said.

Murton was batting .400 so far with the Cubs and has three extra-base hits, but he hasn't shown much power.

"When you first come up, you want to get some hits," Baker said. "You hope the power comes. The main thing you want to see a young guy do is get hits. I'm not worried about his power.

"My wife [Melissa] talked to his mom, and she said he led every league coming up in home runs," Baker said. "The main thing is, he puts the ball in play, makes contact and gets hits. He's ahead of most guys already."

Murton said he didn't face many left-handed pitchers in high school and didn't like seeing them in college.

"I think I've seen them enough over the last three, five years to get comfortable facing them," the rookie said. "It's just a good approach to the middle of the field, work counts and try to get on base."

He also can run. Murton had 18 stolen bases in the Minor Leagues before he was called up.

"But I'm not a base stealer," Murton said. "I'll pick my spots. I have enough speed."

Taking care of business: Cubs second baseman Todd Walker has said that if there is a lack of effort, the players would take care of it. Baker was asked if the Cubs police themselves.

"They police themselves, but they don't police themselves the way we used to police ourselves," Baker said.

And what did Baker's boys do?

"We used to jack guys up," he said, which means a physical confrontation.

Is there an effective way to do so?

"Probably not," Baker said.

Aches and pains: Jerry Hairston Jr. took batting practice on Wednesday for the first time since injuring his left elbow on Aug. 3, and said he most likely will not have to undergo a second MRI exam. Hairston has a torn ligament in his left elbow, which is not his throwing arm.

"Hopefully, everything goes according to plan," said Hairston, who was placed on the DL on Aug. 5.

Making it clear: During his pregame session with the media on Tuesday, Baker was asked whether the Cubs were concentrating, and he dismissed it.

"There are a couple games, but all in all, I can't chastise them for not focusing and concentrating," Baker said on Tuesday. "I know when things are going poorly, it's a little more difficult to concentrate. We're just not getting it done."

Baker then did a radio interview Tuesday and took a stronger stance, saying, "We've had a total letdown in that area. It bothers the heck out of me, it bothers my coaches, and it bothers the players when it happens to them."

On Wednesday, Baker was asked to clarify.

"I said, 'At times,'" Baker said. "It's not an overall, long, extended, everybody issue. It's at times. There's a difference. If I contradicted myself, I'm sorry. It's at times. You've seen it. I've seen it, too. At times. Those are isolated incidents."

So the concentration problem is not a team issue?

"No, it's not," Baker said.

Minor matters: Todd Wellemeyer gave up three runs, two earned, on four hits and two walks over six innings in Triple-A Iowa's 6-5 win over Las Vegas. Wellemeyer struck out four and is 3-2 with a 3.02 ERA. Jermaine Van Buren picked up his 21st save of the season and is one shy of the single-season record, set in 1997. Nate Frese went 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs. ... Jae-Kuk Ryu gave up two runs on four hits over 7 2/3 innings in Double-A West Tenn's 5-4 loss to Carolina. Dwaine Bacon was 3-for-5 with a double and a triple. ... Luis Rivera was 4-for-4 with two RBIs and Eric Patterson was 2-for-5 with a home run and two RBIs in Class A Peoria's 8-3 win over Clinton. Sean Gallagher gave up two runs on five hits and four walks over five innings. He's 13-4 with a 2.36 ERA. ... Mike Hyle gave up one run on four hits over five innings in Class A Boise's 4-0 loss to Spokane. Davy Gregg and Jesus Valdez both went 2-for-4. ... Mark Pawelek gave up two runs, one earned, on two hits over four innings and struck out five in the rookie level Mesa Cubs' 6-3 loss to the Royals. Randy Brown went 4-for-6.

On deck: The Redbirds are coming, the Redbirds are coming. The Cubs open a four-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday. Greg Maddux will face Mark Mulder in Game 1.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.