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The Chicago Cubs believed Rudy Jaramillo was the top hitting coach in baseball, and they paid him like it before last season with a three-year, $2.42 million contract to lure him away from the Texas Rangers. An added bonus was Jaramillo's familiarity with the Cubs' inconsistent $136 million man, Alfonso Soriano, who spent two seasons in Texas with Jaramillo.
But not much changed -- at least statistically -- for Soriano under Jaramillo's tutelage in 2010.
Soriano played in 147 games last season -- the most in his four seasons with the Cubs -- and batted .258 with 24 home runs and 79 RBIs. Soriano, who signed an eight-year, $136 million contract before the 2007 season, has averaged 26 home runs, 70 RBIs and 127 games a season as a Cub.
Asked if Soriano will improve this season, Jaramillo said the burden falls on Soriano.
"He has to do that himself. I can help him and Sori is definitely going back in the right direction," Jaramillo said Tuesday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "I can see that his foundation is better so hopefully he just becomes more consistent. We've just got to work on slowing his mind down and trust what he does in the cage. That way he can execute that approach.
"We're really trying to stress the mechanical part and the approach that goes with every situation. Sori did well last year. I expect him to do better. I think he has a better understanding of what he and I tried to accomplish so I expect a good year from Sori."
The Cubs' overall production went down in their first season with Jaramillo, who spent 15 years with Texas and had 17 players win Silver Slugger awards under his guidance. After scoring a league-high 855 runs in 2008 and 707 in 2009, the Cubs fell to 685 last season and batted .257 as a team, 16th in baseball.
"When you're new it's going to take time -- the fact that you've got to win these kids' respect. That's what I was trying to do last year and get used to the approach we are trying to use mechanically and mentally," Jaramillo said. "This year now in spring training I can tell they've got a grasp. They can believe in it so I'm expecting some big things out of my hitters."