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02/28/11 3:53 PM EST

Aramis aims to be healthy, hitting this season

MESA, Ariz. -- Aramis Ramirez says he didn't have any issues with Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo last season, just problems hitting, period.

The Cubs third baseman batted .207 in the first half, including a .152 April and a .173 May. A nagging thumb injury made it difficult for him to grip a bat. Last season was Jaramillo's first with the Cubs and there were reports that Ramirez wasn't working with the veteran hitting coach.

It just took time to figure each other out, Ramirez said Monday.

"We never had a problem," Ramirez said. "People think because I struggled early last year, I didn't go to Rudy. I worked with him and listened to him. At the same time, I know what I have to do to be ready. I have almost 12 years in the big leagues so when I'm struggling, I know, 90, 99 percent of the time, I know what I'm doing wrong.

"Rudy can help," Ramirez said, "but I'm the one who goes to the plate and has to make the adjustments. Just to make it clear, me and Rudy never had a problem. I never in my career had any problem with any coach, manager, hitting coach, nobody."

Jaramillo also says there was never a rift.

"I don't know how that came up," Jaramillo said. "We're great. I just praise the kid and the way he's gone about things -- it's been awesome."

That's all good news for the Cubs. The team might as well get lineup cards pre-printed with Ramirez in the No. 4 hole. That's one spot manager Mike Quade doesn't have to worry about.

Will he be there next year? Ramirez, 32, is in the last year of his contract with the Cubs and in January made a rare appearance at the Cubs Convention. He took part in a seminar on the Dominican Republic with Carlos Pena and Starlin Castro and at the end of the session told fans how much he appreciated their support. Some interpreted that as Ramirez saying goodbye. He's not thinking about next year yet.

"I can't control that," he said. "I'll play this year and see what happens. [Next year] is out of my control. The only thing I can do is play my game this year and see what happens.

"I appreciate [the fans]," he said. "I might not have another opportunity later on [to say goodbye] if it happens that I don't come back here. I don't really think about next year. I just want to play this year and see what happens."

It's tough for Ramirez to leave his family in the Dominican every year. His oldest son, A.J., is 7 years old and now playing third base like his dad. They come to visit for short periods of time but need to continue school at home.

"It's tougher and tougher to leave my house," Ramirez said. "I want to see what happens this year."

Ramirez's father didn't want his son to play baseball. A doctor, the elder Ramirez was hoping his only son would take over one of his three clinics.

"I didn't want to do that," Ramirez said. "If I didn't play baseball, I'd be an engineer."

But he is playing baseball, at least this year. Ramirez arrived in Cubs camp at least six pounds heavier than last season. He worked out hard in the offseason to get stronger and be able to hold up over a 162-game season. So far this spring, he's healthy. That will be the key to a successful season.

"I missed more than 40 games last year," said Ramirez, who played in 124 games, batting .241 with 25 homers and 83 RBIs. "If I play 20 more games, I drive in 100 runs. I have to stay healthy."

And keep working. During the regular season, some players, such as Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome and Marlon Byrd, need a quick session in the batting cage before every game. Not Ramirez. That's just him.

"Everybody is different, everybody has a different routine," Ramirez said. "I don't go to the cage every day. It wasn't because of Rudy. It's just the way I am."

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.