After 14 major league seasons, 315 career home runs and a lifetime of experience in the National League Central Division, it’d be easy for 33-year-old third baseman Aramis Ramirez to assume his new team should adjust to him instead of the other way around.
But after signing a three-year, $36 million free-agent contract in December, the Milwaukee Brewers’ most important offseason addition is attacking his first spring with the new club with the attitude of a player trying to make the team instead of a player who could make the team’s season.
“Aramis is a very professional guy about what he’s doing, how he’s going about his job,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “He’s a very easy guy to talk to. He gets it. And I think how he has left it with us, if there’s anything that we see that we would like him to do, he’s willing to do it. Which means a lot to me — coming from a guy who’s been a superstar. And when guys are open to suggestions and still trying to get better at what they do, especially at the level that he’s been at for a long time, it means a lot to me.”
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With the season only 12 days away, Ramirez is hitting .250 (13-for-32) with one home run and two RBI in Cactus League play — not exactly the type of numbers the Brewers are expecting from a two-time All-Star who batted .306 with 26 home runs and 93 RBI last season. But Ramirez has made a career out of producing in the middle of the lineup, and even though no one in the Brewers clubhouse expects him to replace the last guy to man the cleanup spot for Milwaukee — Prince Fielder signed a $214 million with the Detroit Tigers during the offseason — Ramirez hopes to continue the steady production that has seen him hit at least 25 home runs in seven of the past eight seasons.
“That’s what I’ve done my whole career — been a 3, 4, 5 hitter — since I came up,” Ramirez said. “And I don’t see any difference coming over here and doing that. You can’t replace Prince. It is what it is, and I’m just going to go out there and do my job.”
And, like Roenicke said, Ramirez will put in the work to make sure he does the job well.
“I got a nice work ethic,” said Ramirez, who came up with the Pirates in 1998 before being traded to the Cubs in 2003 and spending the rest of his career in Chicago. “I don’t do a lot of stuff that I’m not supposed to do. On and off the field. I try to behave and just work hard. And you know, God-given ability, too. That helps, but I try to stay in shape and try to stay at the top of my game.”
Despite the angst among Brewers fans over losing Fielder, it’s tough for even their manager to look at what Ramirez brings and not feel confident about a batting order that will start with 2011 All-Star second baseman Rickie Weeks, energizer center fielder Nyjer Morgan, reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun, Ramirez and two-time All-Star right fielder Corey Hart.
“It’s basically what we had last year, but I think we’re more solid in the fifth spot — if Corey (Hart, who is recovering from knee surgery) is going to be there,” Roenicke said. “And you subtract Prince from it and add Aramis, which I like. I like what Aramis can do. We’re not going replace Prince. But there’s other things we can do to make up for the loss of maybe what we were going get from him. Aramis is a very good hitter. I really like him in the fourth spot. But it’s not fair to say he’s gotta hit forty-something homers. You know, he’s not that guy. He’s a very good hitter. And I really do like our three-four. And when Corey’s back, the three-four-five — that’s really good.”
The Milwaukee Brewers provided interviews for this story.