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Cubs moving quickly to hire new hitting coach
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 10/17/2009 12:01 AM

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The Cubs wrapped up a weeklong series of meetings in Arizona on Friday in advance to their more formal organization meetings in November.

In addition to watching minor-league prospects Starlin Castro, Josh Vitters and Andrew Cashner in the Arizona Fall League, the Cubs may have made significant progress toward hiring Rudy Jaramillo as their new hitting coach.

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry declined to comment on the record Friday when contacted by telephone about Jaramillo because the coach is under contract to the Texas Rangers until Oct. 31.

However, Jaramillo this week declined a one-year offer to return to the Rangers, and the Rangers said they'll grant permission to other clubs wishing to interview the highly respected batting coach.

It is believed the Cubs have spoken to Jaramillo, and sources indicate he is clearly Hendry's top candidate to fill the job. If all goes well, Jaramillo could be on board in a few days, giving the Cubs the kick-start they want to an important off-season.

Hendry fired Gerald Perry as hitting coach in June and brought up Von Joshua from the minor leagues to finish the season. Joshua was told at the end of the season he would not be asked back as major-league hitting coach.

Jaramillo, 59, spent 15 seasons as the Rangers' hitting coach and earned a reputation as one of the best in the game. He left the Rangers this week because he wanted a multiyear contract.

Even though Cubs manager Lou Piniella is signed only through 2010, that would not preclude Hendry from giving Jaramillo a multiyear contract.

Despite Jaramillo's record, the Rangers' runs-scored total fell from a major-league-leading 901 in 2008 to 784 this year, or seventh in the American League. Rangers batters led the American League in strikeouts and were 12th in walks, and that concerned the Texas front office.

Interestingly, the Cubs suffered a similar fate from 2008 to 2009. They led the National League in runs scored, with 855, in 2008 but fell to 707 this year, or 10th in the NL. The Cubs also had big drop-offs in walks and on-base percentage from 2008 to '09.

Despite a relationship in Texas with embattled Milton Bradley, hiring Jaramillo does not appear to be an attempt to mend fences with the Cubs right fielder for 2010.

Hendry remains intent on trading Bradley, who has two years and $21 million left on the three-year, $30 million contract Hendry gave him last winter.

Two or three teams may be interested in Bradley, but a trade does not appear imminent.