Jaramillo knows hitters will need time

Jaramillo knows hitters will need time

MESA, Ariz. -- Rudy Jaramillo may be the only person in Cubs camp who would like to see Spring Training extended a couple more weeks. Ryan Theriot, however, can't wait for the regular season to start.

"This is my first time around them," said Jaramillo, the Cubs' new hitting coach. "I still haven't won their trust like I want to. It's getting there. It's just going to take time and it's going to go into the season. Some guys I'm not even probably close there.

"I need to get more time with them," he said, "and I hope in the last few days, when we start sending some kids down, I can work one on one and work on the approach of what we're trying to do with men on base."

Entering Monday's game, the Cubs ranked fourth in the National League and third in the Cactus League with a team batting average of .289. They are first in the NL in home runs with 26. Tyler Colvin ranks among the Cactus League leaders at .442 while Theriot is batting .533.

Theriot doesn't have enough at-bats to qualify for the Arizona batting title, but he may be leading the Cubs' clubhouse in terms of trusting Jaramillo. The shortstop heard nothing but praise from former teammate Mark DeRosa, who credits Jaramillo with saving his career.

"[DeRosa] was always talking about Rudy," Theriot said Monday. "A few years ago, I was talking with 'DeRo' in the offseason and he said, 'I'm getting ready to go hit with Rudy,' and I said, 'Can I come?'"

Theriot didn't do it that time, but this offseason, expect him to make a couple trips to Texas for some hunting and hitting. He likes the idea of learning new things, and he's seeing results.

"It's really the opposite of what I've ever done," Theriot said. "It's totally opposite just because of the way I start my swing. That was something that took about a week, a week and a half before I really felt comfortable doing it. It was right at the beginning of games and when we were over at Fitch [Park], same thing. I was like, 'Man, this is uncomfortable,' and I wasn't really sold on it. And then one day, it just kind of clicked."

Theriot, who will be the Cubs' leadoff man this year, didn't add a tap with his foot or make a drastic change. But watch how he starts his swing.

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"He's been great," Jaramillo said. "You can see the trust in him. He's not jumping at the ball, he's trusting what he's working on in the cage and not worrying about it out here ... not worried about his approach. He's just getting it done."

Theriot and Jaramillo have developed a good rapport. If the shortstop has a question, Jaramillo is ready with an answer.

"You can tell a guy to go up there and hit with the barrel in his hands and if he gets a hit, maybe he was right," Theriot said. "A lot of times, we trick ourselves into being better than we are and vice versa. From that aspect, [Jaramillo's] really helped me out tremendously."

What about some of the other Cubs? Kosuke Fukudome, who was hitting .250 this spring, is slowly making the adjustments Jaramillo has suggested.

"It's going to take a little time," Jaramillo said. "I hope the last few days [of camp]he does the things I'm asking him to do, getting in a better position and staying through the ball and things like that. He's been working hard going in the cage and doing his stuff. Hopefully, from there, it will take off for him."

Alfonso Soriano, who was with Jaramillo in Texas, was hitting .290 this spring.

"'Sori' is going to take time," Jaramillo said. "He has one or two good at-bats a day and then sometimes he just has one ,but he's still a work in progress. We have to still get his backside better. That's the main thing."

The key is developing a solid foundation with his legs. It will help Soriano stay back and see the ball better.

"We have to keep working and get his confidence back, too," Jaramillo said.

He is confident Soriano will bounce back. There were rumblings last season that Soriano was having problems offensively because he was sticking with a heavy bat.

"His hands are still quick," Jaramillo said. "The heavy bat has nothing to do with it. I haven't even mentioned that to him and I'm not going to -- that's not it. I have to get his foundation good so he can get that path, and the bat will be short to the ball and we'll go from there."

OK, what about Geovany Soto? The 2008 NL Rookie of the Year scuffled to bat .218 last season. He's also a project. Jaramillo didn't need to look at video of Soto's swing. He can get a read on a batter after watching a few swings in the cage.

"I can look at their legs here in [batting practice], and if they do that right, then everything else will be there," Jaramillo said. "If your lower half isn't there, you'll see a symptom and I go to the root of the problem to take care of it -- that's your foundation. Anything you build, the foundation has to be there first."

"There's a lot of guys -- look at Marlon [Byrd]," Theriot said. "Look at his track record before he got with Rudy, and then the wonderful years he had over there [in Texas]. He set himself up and made himself a good hitter."

Mike Fontenot is a believer in Jaramillo. The Cubs' second baseman struggled in 2009, hitting .236. This spring, he's hitting .294. Theriot can see a difference.

"[Fontenot] is more confident, more aggressive," Theriot said. "Confidence has never been a problem for me."

He said that with a smile. What Jaramillo focuses on is being prepared. It gives the hitter a huge advantage. And they work on that in batting practice, thinking about situations each and every at-bat.

"Every round [of batting practice], the first guy calls out the round," Theriot said. "Every round is a situation. I hit first in my group, so [Derrek Lee] gets mad at me because I call out rounds that I'm good at. Everything's a focus, it's a game plan. When those situations come up in a game, you're ready for them."

On Saturday against Kansas City, Theriot delivered a bases-loaded double with two outs. Jaramillo said that's exactly what he's looking for.

"That's a great confidence boost for him," Jaramillo said. "It's little things he's working on, his approach, trusting himself."

Jaramillo likes to break down the swing to five fundamental steps. Does Theriot know what they are?

"Yeah, I do, but I don't like to think about them too much," he said. "I've got my two or three little things to think about and other than that, the only better situation we could have is if we could've been able to work out with him in the offseason."

Theriot expects his teammates to learn to trust Jaramillo.

"Guys, if they're smart, will start to see the way the players have bought in and what they're doing," Theriot said. "If they're not smart, that's their problem. I think somebody with a decent head on his shoulders should say, 'You know what? this stuff works.'"

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