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updated: 3/13/2010 1:33 PM

A healthy Ramirez provides Cubs best chance at recovery

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  • Chicago Cubs' Aramis Ramirez throws a ball during spring training .

      Chicago Cubs' Aramis Ramirez throws a ball during spring training .
    Associated Press

 
 

Simply put, Aramis Ramirez is the most potent offensive force the Cubs have.

In just 82 games last year in an injury-interrupted season, Ramirez drove in 65 runs. That was second on the team to Derrek Lee's 111.

Including the May 8 game at Milwaukee, where Ramirez dislocated his left shoulder, and running through his last day on the disabled list on July 5, the Cubs went 24-27. They never really were able to replace his offense.

Ramirez arrived at spring training healthy, and the Cubs will need him to stay that way if they're to have a shot at winning the National League Central.

Here are all things Ramirez:

Why didn't he get surgery? Ramirez, together with the doctors, felt the structural damage was such that he could strengthen the shoulder with a full winter of rehab and not surgery.

How impressive are his stats? Since his first full season with the Cubs in 2004, Ramirez has put up OPS (on-base plus slugging percentages) of .951, .926, .912, .915, .898 and .905.

He had 1 RBI every 4.71 at-bats last year, second among third basemen with at least 250 at-bats to Alex Rodriguez and his 1 RBI per every 4.44 at-bats.

Ramirez is the first Cub in history with at least 30 doubles and 25 homers five consecutive seasons (2004-08).

Is Ramirez a "clutch" hitter? Let's not get started on that debate. Most stats people will tell you there is clutch hitting but not clutch hitters because the stat is a random one.

Ask Ramirez about it after yet another one of his big hits in a game, and he replies, simply, "That's what I get paid to do."

Last season, Ramirez drove in 28 runs and batted .304 with two outs. Ramirez batted .425 (37-for-87) with runners in scoring position. For his career, he's a .303 hitter with 76 homers with men in scoring position.

So believe what you will: Either Ramirez is a clutch hitter, or he's just a good hitter who enjoys pressure situations and manages to get his pitch and hit it hard in those spots.

Are the Cubs covered if he gets hurt? They certainly weren't last year, and manager Lou Piniella worried about it from the get-go after the trade of Mark DeRosa.

Piniella trotted out Mike Fontenot, Jake Fox, Jeff Baker, Bobby Scales and Ryan Freel at third in 2009.

Baker is on board for a full year, and he figures to be the man at third whenever Ramirez needs a break.

What about Josh Vitters? The Cubs' No. 1 pick of 2007 batted .316 with 15 homers at Class A Peoria and .238 with 3 homers at Class A Daytona last year. He figures to start at Class AA Tennessee this year.

It would take some turn of events for Vitters to get a call-up this year.

Will Ramirez opt out of his contract next fall? That remains to be seen. As general manager Jim Hendry likes to point out, the Cubs have not lost a player they've wanted to keep in recent years.

That includes Ramirez, whom they still seem to like a lot.

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