Aramis, Cubs begin 2012 in different directions
Third baseman finds new home with rival Brewers
PHOENIX -- Aramis Ramirez knew in late October that he wasn't coming back to the Cubs.
After Theo Epstein was named the club's president of baseball operations, he contacted Ramirez's agent and told him the team was going in a different direction and would not be picking up Ramirez's option. The Cubs said goodbye to the 33-year-old third baseman and acquired Ian Stewart, 26, from the Rockies.
"[Epstein] said they were going to go young," Ramirez said Saturday. "I don't know how old [Stewart] is, but he's pretty young. He did good before. I heard he was hurt last year and hopefully he's healthy and does a good job with them."
Stewart is coming off an injury-filled season in which he did not hit a home run in 122 at-bats with the Rockies. Ramirez averaged nearly 27 homers in his nine seasons with Chicago. Will Cubs fans be patient with Epstein?
Ramirez signed a three-year deal with Milwaukee and leaves a team that lost 91 games last season to join the National League Central champs.
"It's baseball," Ramirez said. "Different guys, different temmates. The only difference is these guys won 96 games last year. That's different because they're ready to win now. Theo's got a different plan. He's going to go young, develop some players. Here, they're going in a different direction."
On Saturday, Ramirez faced his former teammates for the first time in an eventual 6-1 Cubs victory. He joked before the game that he was going to bunt against Ryan Dempster in his first at-bat. The Cubs pitcher must have found out about that. His first pitch sailed over Ramirez's head and the third baseman ended up grounding into a double play to end the first.
Did Dempster know about Ramirez's plan?
"It would've been a tough pitch to bunt," Dempster said.
Was he trying to send a message?
"It just got away," Dempster said of the pitch. "I've seen him too many times to leave it out over the plate. I was trying to go inside. In the back of your mind, you don't want to hit him, so you end up letting it go a little early."
Getting Ramirez, who finished 0-for-3 in the game, to ground out was a definite plus.
"Hopefully, some of what I've watched over the years, I can apply," Dempster said of future matchups. "He's a pretty darn good hitter."
The rest of Dempster's outing was without a glitch. He gave up two hits and walked two over three innings, then went down to the bullpen to throw some more.
"I'll face these guys a lot this year so there's no point going out there and throwing a whole bunch more to them," said Dempster, who will start in the Cubs' first series vs. the Brewers on April 9-12. "It was a good day, good work. I keep trying to build up innings."
Ramirez will find out how Cubs fans feel about him when the Brewers come to Wrigley Field.
"I don't know," Ramirez said about what the fans' reaction will be. "Obviously, they aren't happy I'm playing for their rivals now, I'm playing for Milwaukee. I have no clue."
If he's booed, it won't be the first time. Ramirez still hears jeers when he faces the Pirates.
"It's been nine years and every time I go back, I still get booed," Ramirez said. "I don't know how they're going to take it, but I don't worry about it. I can't control that stuff."
Ramirez never seemed to be embraced by Cubs fans despite being a consistent run producer.
"I just try to do my job and I think for the most part, I did it," Ramirez said. "I think that's all you can ask for as a player. When you sign somebody or pay somebody to do their job, they're out there playing the game, and I did that."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.