SAN FRANCISCO -- Expect a much improved Cubs offense next season. Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo sees progress.
"I feel really good about it," Jaramillo said Thursday. "I see some strides that all these kids are making, obviously some more than others.
"If you look down the road, I see a lot of good things happening and a lot of positive things with guys who are going to be here and are young," he said. "We just keep moving forward and keep working and trying to get across what we want them to learn."
The reason next year might be more productive for the Cubs hitters is because they will have had a season to get used to Jaramillo's program, which includes working the count so the hitter is swinging at his pitch, not the pitcher's pitch.
"We've got some great innings where we've gotten 20, 30 pitches and that's what you want so you get in their bullpen, especially if it's their ace out there," Jaramillo said. "You always hope to get better at it."
The Cubs took that approach Thursday against San Franciso's Matt Cain as six batters went to the plate in the first against the right-hander. Xavier Nady hit a two-run double and Cain threw 31 pitches that inning.
Jaramillo has seen quality at-bats by rookies Starlin Castro and Tyler Colvin, who both got singles in the first.
"Castro does it because of the fact that at first they were throwing him a lot of fastballs and then they started throwing a lot of changeups and he was swinging early in the count," Jaramillo said. "The adjustments he's made now is he's starting to hit offspeed pitches and now he can trust himself more to see more pitches."
Colvin connected on a curve from Barry Zito on Wednesday for his 18th home run, tops among all rookies. Jaramillo said Colvin still has work to do.
"He's kind of in and out, but he understands and he's mentally tough and he keeps working," Jaramillo said. "It's a stepping stone for him. He's just a rookie and he's going to get better, no doubt about it, because he has the fortitude and strength to want to be a good hitter."
Barney gets 'nice surprise' with callup
SAN FRANCISCO -- Ryne Sandberg called Darwin Barney's wife's cell phone Wednesday but she wasn't sure who it was.
"She was like, 'Ryne who?'" Barney said, "and he said, 'Sandberg. Let me talk to Darwin.'"
And that's how the infielder got the news that he had been called up from Triple-A Iowa to the big leagues.
"I almost needed him to say it again because I wasn't expecting it," Barney said.
The infielder takes Mike Fontenot's spot on the Cubs roster after Fontenot was dealt to the Giants on Wednesday for a Minor League outfielder. Barney walked into the visitor's clubhouse at AT&T Park around 11 a.m. PT with his suitcase, bat bag and duffel bag. He didn't mind the 4 a.m. CT wakeup call. It happens all the time in the Minor Leagues.
"This is something you work for your whole life," Barney said. "You don't think it's inevitable because it's not easy. The timing has to be right and the club has to want you and all these different things. You can't take anything for granted but keep working hard and hope it will pay off."
He changed into a Cubs T-shirt and shorts, made the rounds of the clubhouse to shake hands with the other players, then grabbed a donut. Acting Cubs manager Alan Trammell stopped by and Barney asked if he was in the lineup. Not yet.
"This was a nice surprise," Barney said.
Barney was leading all Triple-A hitters with 142 hits this season. He was batting .297 for Iowa with 24 doubles, four triples, two home runs, 71 runs scored and 49 RBIs. He has primarily played shortstop, starting at second base on Opening Day and again one week ago.
The second time he started at second, Barney thought there might be a chance he could get a call. He decided to get some help at second and spent more than an hour with Iowa manager and Hall of Fame second baseman Sandberg.
"The big difference is turning double plays," Barney said. "That's the one thing I feel I'm working on and I need to polish up. Whatever they want me to do, that's what I'll do."
Barney and Sandberg have moved up together through the Cubs' Minor League system, beginning in Class A Peoria in 2007.
"For me, he has a lot to do with my development," Barney said. "The way he comes off as a manager and makes the clubhouse feel good ... guys just want to play hard every day. You know what he expects and you know he wants to compete as much or more than you. That's his nature."
Sore Aramis expects to return Friday
SAN FRANCISCO -- Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez was not in the lineup Thursday, still bothered by a sore left side. His status is day to day.
Ramirez said he hurt his side when he dove for a ball Monday against the Giants. He can feel some discomfort when he's swinging or throwing.
"Those injuries there are ones you have to be cautious with," acting Cubs manager Alan Trammell said.
Ramirez said he expected to be back in the lineup Friday when the Cubs open a three-game series against the Cardinals in St. Louis.
Trammell ready to hand back managing reins
SAN FRANCISCO -- In the seven games Alan Trammell has been the Cubs' acting manager, he's had to deal with an abrupt trade of two players, a heart problem with a starting pitcher, some lopsided losses, another trade and the addition of rookies.
Lou Piniella returns to the Cubs on Friday in St. Louis after spending the week taking care of his ailing mother. Trammell has had enough headaches as a big league manager in his stint -- or has he?
"Any time you're managing a game, you go with what you have and that's the way it is," Trammell said. "What are your options? You take over on the day there's the Trading Deadline and you lose two players and [Wednesday] we trade somebody who goes across the road.
"Then, with [Aramis Ramirez] going down -- there's no crying here and I have to say, you've seen the effort," Trammell said. "It's been there. I want to make sure that's loud and clear -- that's the way it's supposed to be."
Ramirez missed his second game Thursday because of a sore left side. On July 31, when Trammell covered for Piniella so he could attend his uncle's funeral, the Cubs dealt Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot to the Dodgers for infielder Blake DeWitt. The next day, starter Carlos Silva had to come out of his game after four batters because of an abnormal heart rate.
On Wednesday, infielder Mike Fontenot was dealt 500 feet from the Cubs' clubhouse to the Giants'.
Trammell, 52, isn't new to managing. He was at the Tigers' helm from 2003-05. After these seven games with the Cubs, does he still want to manage?
"It's still the same," Trammell said, sitting in the empty stands at AT&T Park to talk to reporters. "I know what my role is and I know this is temporary. I'm really coaching, that's what I'm doing.
"When it's in your lap that day, it's different," he said. "But for a little taste, I can do it. I've done it before. It's not like 'Whoa, it's the first time it's happened.'"
He leans on pitching coach Larry Rothschild for help. Rothschild also has managing experience with Tampa Bay from 1998-2001.
"We talk and he'll make a suggestion and I'll make a suggestion, and boom, that's how we do it," Trammell said.
He's eager to have Piniella back.
"I look forward to seeing Lou again," Trammell said. "The four years I've been with him, it's been a great experience. That's the truth and I've enjoyed it very much."
When the Cubs do face the Cardinals, they will be without Tony La Russa, who was served a two-game suspension following the fracas with the Reds on Tuesday. That won't change things, Trammell said.
"Whoever is managing the ship over there, as I've described how I've done, it'll be the same thing," Trammell said. "They've been sitting there next to [La Russa] for years and they know his style and how he likes to do it. If it was for a month, that's a different story."
What was his take on the dust-up between the two National League Central rivals?
"My thoughts about Brandon Phillips and making those statements, he's trying to fire his guys up and he'll stand by his comments," Trammell said of Cincinnati's second baseman. "I don't think the word he used -- I think he has respect for [Cardinals]. I would use a different choice of words. He stood up to it; he's a good player."
Phillips also said he loves the Cubs.
"I don't think so," Trammell said, chuckling.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.