Cubs' hitting woes lead to Jaramillo's dismissal
Minor League hitting coordinator Rowson named on interim basis
CHICAGO -- The problem wasn't Rudy Jaramillo, Theo Epstein said, but a need for a change in philosophy.
Jaramillo, a well respected hitting coach with the Rangers who didn't manage to have the same success in Chicago, was dismissed on Tuesday as the hitting coach because the Cubs wanted to commit to a new message, Epstein said. Jaramillo was replaced on an interim basis by James Rowson, the Cubs' Minor League hitting coordinator.
"Rudy's not to blame for the results," said Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations. "That's something we're all accountable for. We put the roster together. It's probably more on us than it is on him.
"I'm sure a lot of players feel accountable, too," Epstein said. "It's not based on results, it's more trying to get a new voice with a new message. We have a certain hitting philosophy we believe in and we have a lot of growth that awaits us as an organization."
Epstein said he met with Jaramillo a few weeks ago, and pointed out some things they wanted to be emphasized as far as hitting philosophy, and asked for some adjustments. Apparently, they didn't see enough change.
"If you're going to embrace a new message, you need a new voice to go with it," Epstein said. "Rudy is so good with the mechanics of the swing. He's excellent at that. I think sometimes it can be hard to shift into more of an emphasis on an approach, the mental side of hitting and other things we're trying to emphasize. It just seemed like the appropriate time to make a decision."
Jaramillo, 61, was in his third season with the Cubs, and the team has regressed during his tenure. The Cubs' on-base percentage has dropped each of the seasons he's been the hitting coach.
What's different with what the Cubs want from what Jaramillo did?
"It's more emphasis than anything else," Epstein said. "Rudy might be the best in the world at the mechanics of the swing. We're trying to get to the point where we have a game plan for our hitters, emphasizing selective aggressiveness at the plate."
Epstein said it's nothing new that they're espousing, saying it's on the first page of Ted Williams' book on hitting. They want to see the Cubs get their pitch to hit.
"The goal is to get your pitch in your count so you can put an aggressive swing on the ball so you can drive it," Epstein said. "We're not asking our hitters to walk, we're asking our hitters to make sure they're selective enough to get a good pitch to hit so they can be aggressive."
The Cubs rank 10th in the National League in batting with a .247 team average entering Tuesday, and have struggled to deliver in clutch situations. They rank 14th in runs scored, and are hitting .232 with runners in scoring position.
Jaramillo has helped young Starlin Castro, who is batting .308, and Alfonso Soriano, who leads the Majors with 12 home runs since May 15. But the rest of the team has scuffled, especially against left-handed pitchers, against whom they are batting a collective .223.
"One thing I thought we'd be really good at going in was hitting left-handed pitching, and we really struggled with that," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
Rowson, 35, joined the Cubs during the offseason after six seasons in the Yankees' organization, including the past four as their Minor League hitting coordinator.
A former outfielder, Rowson was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the ninth round of the 1994 First-Year Player Draft and played professionally for four seasons, including three seasons in the Mariners' system and one season in the Yankees' system.
Jaramillo helped the Rangers lead the American League in batting average three times, and they ranked in the top five in OPS 10 times. This is his 34th season in professional baseball. He was the Rangers' hitting coach from 1995-2009.
Sveum said it was a "tough 24 hours" to think about the decision.
"We all have to suffer the consequences for the results," Sveum said. "Rudy never changed, he worked as hard as any hitting coach I've ever seen. Mechanically, he's as good as anybody I've been around. We're just searching for a different message, different philosophy."
What's Sveum's philosophy?
"You'll get your walks if you don't swing at pitches that you can't hit out of the ballpark -- that's my philosophy," said Sveum, who was the Brewers' hitting coach for three seasons before taking over as the Cubs' manager.
On Sunday, Jaramillo was asked about the Cubs, who were coming off a 2-8 road trip in which they struggled to score.
"The approach is fine," Jaramillo said. "Hopefully, we can get a hit with men in scoring position and it kind of rolls from there and good things happen."
The Cubs went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position Saturday in an 11-3 loss to the Twins.
"The bottom line is you have to believe you can hit when you go to the plate and feel good about yourself," Jaramillo said, "and that's what we're trying to do, is make them feel good about themselves for the next day and move on and keep a good positive attitude and be there for them and keep chugging along."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.