Apparently, the Cubs didn't need a line-up shuffle. They just needed to face a Pittsburgh Pirates team that is worse off than they are. And I concede that Matt Holliday isn't coming. There's nothing wrong with a little wishful thinking, backed up with statistical analysis while getting the brain flowing in hopes that Jim Hendry finds this blog, has a lightbulb go off over his head, call Billy Beane and make something special happen.
Again, an extreme line-up turnover isn't coming and neither is Holliday. But Aramis Ramirez is.
The Chicago Tribune reported that the slugging third baseman will take batting practice at PNC Park this week. But unlike the rest of the time when players step into PNC Park to take batting practice, Ramirez is doing so from a batting cage, not one of the Pirates' starters. And if all goes well, The Ram's rehab assignment will start Thursday, putting him in line to come back against Atlanta next week.
Those associated with Chicago Cubs baseball conveniently point out the Cubs' offensive struggles while Ramirez was sidelined with a shoulder injury which occurred when he tried so damn hard to catch a ball down the third base line in an attempt to please the ultimate Aramis detractor, Barry Rozner.
Through 18 games, Ramirez hit .364 with 4 homers and 16 ribbies. At that pace, Ram-Bam-Thank-You-Ma'am was on pace for a 36 home run, 144 RBI season that still would have not gained approval from Rozner because of a perceived lack of hustle on Ramirez's part. That is the kind of production the Cubs need, especially from the middle of the order.
But Ramirez re-joining the team is more than a numbers boost, it's a mental boost, too.
Heck, knowing that the wet newspapers Mike Fontenot and Aaron Miles use as a bat will be glued to the bench is worth a few wins right there.
Penciling a career .285 hitter (.300 since joining the Cubs) into the third spot every day is the kind of thing that makes Lou Piniella's job easy. And at this point, the less work Lou needs to do with the line-up, the better. Nothing makes you age quicker than seeing Miles up with runners in scoring position.
After wrapping up a three-game set against the Pirates, the Cubs return to the Friendly Confines to host the first-place Milwaukee Brewers, who continue to pound opposing pitchers like they owed them milk money. Then there's three against the Braves before a series against the second-place Cardinals wraps up the first half of the season.
By the looks of that schedule, is there any way Ramirez can hop off the DL now?