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Cubs general manager Jim Hendry thinks the keys to the team contending in the National League this year will be more consistency on the offensive side of the ledger, and less players on the disabled list.
"If we just get our own guys back to what they're used to doing, that being said, that's four or five guys, I mean, good players, all [of whom] kind of had mediocre to bad years all at the same time," said Hendry, speaking on ESPN 1000's "Talkin' Baseball " on Saturday. "We've heard [Cubs manager] Lou [Piniella] say that does turn into 10 or 12 more wins no matter what, and that's what you need to do."
One of the key injuries for the Cubs last year was third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who went down early last May with a shoulder injury. Hendry noted that the Cubs suffered due to Ramirez's absence, but the team was counting on the third baseman to remain healthy this season. Hendry added that the Cubs have added some depth to the position just in case Ramirez does get hurt in 2010, but that no player could truly replace Ramirez.
"We do have some more depth, obviously, than we had last year. Jeff Baker was a real good player for us after got him in the trade (for minor-league pitcher Al Alburquerque) with Colorado," Hendry said. "He's going to have every right to win some more time at second base, but he can shift over to third, which is his more natural position to start out with.
"That was also the logic behind signing Chad Tracy, who doesn't have to be an everyday guy at that position, but has played there and swung the bat very well in his Diamondback career. So, we have more people, obviously, available than we had before, so that bodes well for us in case something does happen to Aramis. But first and foremost, he really can't be totally replaced, no matter what happens, if he gets hurt."
This season, pitcher Ted Lilly is coming back after having offseason shoulder surgery in November. On Thursday, had an MRI done on his right knee. The MRI was negative, and Lilly was cleared to go back to work on Friday.
"He's got what probably anybody who plays professional sports would have from time to time, a little irritation in his knee from all the running pitchers do and things like that," Hendry said. "There's nothing at all in the MRI that even needed a minor meniscus scope like he had last year during the season. He's not going to need a procedure, and it was just one of those things that you get out ahead of it, you get the MRI to make sure and you move on."
Among Hendry's offseason signings was that of center fielder Marlon Byrd. Hendry said Byrd got a good recommendation from Cubs' hitting instructor Rudy Jaramillo, who knew Byrd when they were both with the Texas Rangers. Hendry said at the team's organizational meetings, Jaramillo pushed for the Cubs to sign Byrd. Hendry added that Byrd was also a better center fielder than he may have been given credit for.
"In Rudy's own words, he said he [Byrd] might have been the best guy in the clubhouse, and the best team guy they had there," Hendry said. "So, he fit the whole package; we needed the position. In a perfect world, you look at it and say, 'Gee, I wish Marlon was left-handed,' but Marlon hit, I think, .208-something, .283 against right-handed pitching. So, it's not a big weakness in his game, righties vs. lefties."
Hendry also talked about the status of Piniella, whose contract expires at the end of the season. The Cubs general manager said he wasn't worried about what might happen in the future.
"Anybody in my position who worries about that now is being remiss," Hendry said. "Lou and I have a great relationship. We've had a wonderful relationship since we hired him. Lou's not worried about it; I'm not worried about it. The Ricketts family just bought the club, so to go any farther in the decision making process past 2010 would be quite foolish on my part."