Ramirez starting to acclimate to Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE — In his eight seasons with the Chicago Cubs, Aramis Ramirez made a name for himself as one of the NL's best slugging third basemen. However, the veteran wasn't part of the team's plans when the Cubs decided to rebuild in the offseason.
But their NL Central rivals, just down I-94, just happened to have a vacancy for a big-time slugger.
Without Prince Fielder in the lineup, many wondered if the Milwaukee Brewers could produce enough offense to compete in the NL Central. And by signing the 33-year-old slugger from the Cubs, it was the hope of the Brewers organization that Ramirez could help make up — at least in some part — for Fielder's absence.
Those hopes haven't been fully realized in the 2012 season, as Ramirez's batting average spent the majority of April in the sub-.200's. He's also hit just two home runs on the season, good for a fifth-place tie on the team in that category.
But as Ramirez's old team finishes its three-game series in Milwaukee this weekend, there are signs that Ramirez could be reverting to his Chicago slugger form in a Brewers uniform.
Since May began, Ramirez has shown shades of his former self, hitting safely in nine straight games and averaging an RBI per contest. His batting average (.290) and OPS (.845) in that period show signs of serious improvement, and Ramirez himself said he could feel himself getting into a rhythm.
"I feel a lot better now," Ramirez said. "I'm still not where I need to be though. I need to work on some things."
Although there may be a ways to go in his improvement, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke can also tell that things are different now for the Brewers third baseman.
"I think he's been good for over two weeks now," Roenicke said on Friday. "He's swinging the bat well and he's got some big hits for us. He's hit into some tough outs, but his plate appearances have been really good."
Ramirez's improvement is palpable, but the question still remains and likely will remain in the back of Brewers' fans heads all season long: Can Aramis Ramirez replace Prince Fielder?
Those who denied the fairness of that question often explained that very few could indeed replace Fielder and that a platoon in Milwaukee was the team's best hope to replace his overall production. But the two oft-cited additions expected to help that cause — first baseman Mat Gamel and shortstop Alex Gonzalez — now both out for the season.
So the onus of replacing production — at least on the offensive end — likely falls more to Ramirez than it does to any other player on the Brewers roster. To the third baseman, however, there's no added pressure to produce.
"I've never put pressure on myself," Ramirez said. "I just try to go out there and do the best that I can — sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't."
Lately, it's been working for Ramirez, who's scored three runs in two games against the Cubs so far this weekend. And while Ramirez's recent streak is a positive sign for the Brewers' offense, extending that success over the rest of the season will be crucially important for Milwaukee going forward.
Aramis Ramirez may not be Prince Fielder, but if he can manage to continue to show flashes of the Ramirez so many knew as a prominent slugger in Chicago, like has this weekend, the Brewers offense could get back on track sooner rather than later.
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