ARLINGTON -- Chicago Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo returned on Friday night to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, where he spent the last 15 years.
"I'll tell you what, it's really strange, but it's great being here," Jaramillo said. "I've been here so long, and I think I really realized it when we took [off] from Arizona in the plane [following Spring Training], and I was always used to coming home, and I was going to Atlanta. It feels a little strange, but I'm getting used to it."
Jaramillo served as the Rangers' hitting coach from 1995-2009 but declined a contract offer with the Rangers in the offseason and instead signed with Chicago. But Jaramillo, who grew up in Dallas, still considers himself a fan of his former team.
"I tell you what, I pull for the Rangers. I'm in the National League, and my favorite team is the Rangers. I pull for 'em," Jaramillo said. "I check their box scores, I'm checking their scores during the game all the time because they mean a lot to me. I'm going to have players on both sides that I care a lot about."
Jaramillo is considered one of the top hitting instructors in the game. Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez and Alex Rodriguez all won MVP Awards with the Rangers under Jaramillo. He was close with many current Rangers but realized that a new atmosphere was needed.
"I was here so long, I have a great relationship with all of those young kids that are going to play tonight," Jaramillo said prior to the series opener. "These guys are doing great. They're in first place. I tip my hat to them, and I hope they keep it going. I do miss these kids because I was close to them. I've had a lot of them for so many years. ... We continue to be friends, and I'll still see a lot of them in the winter."
Despite walking down the visitor's hallway, a place he had "never even been in before," it still leads to the same field where he created so many memories.
"I think the most important thing was when Johnny Oates was here, and we won those three divisional championships that happened for the first time ... driving in, looking at this great ballpark," Jaramillo said. "The memories are the times when you won and all the hard work you put in with these young men and the results they got. ... Those are the things to remember."
Thumb sidelines Aramis in opener
ARLINGTON -- Aramis Ramirez did not start Friday to rest a sore left thumb that the Cubs third baseman says has bothered him for some time.
"It's been like that for awhile," Ramirez said prior to the opener of a three-game series with the Rangers. "I aggravated it against Jamie Moyer [Wednesday] night, and it was bad after that."
He's batting .166 overall and is hitless in his last three games but said he wasn't blaming the thumb for his struggles this season.
"I just haven't been consistent," said Ramirez, who hit his fifth career walk-off homer on Monday against Colorado.
Ramirez did pinch-hit in the ninth inning on Thursday against the Phillies but struck out swinging. His plan Friday was to get treatment and see how he feels Saturday.
"It's hard to swing the bat," he said.
Piniella shuffles lineup, starts Nady at DH
ARLINGTON -- It took Lou Piniella a few minutes to figure out where his fifth bench player was.
He hasn't had to deal with the designated hitter very much with the Cubs.
"We only have four [on the bench]," Piniella said Friday. "I was trying to figure out who our fifth guy was today, and he's our DH. You look at it all the time, and you have five bench players."
Xavier Nady started at designated hitter on Friday, leaving Jeff Baker, Koyie Hill and Tyler Colvin on the bench. Mike Fontenot started at third in place of Aramis Ramirez, who has a sore left thumb. Piniella also moved Alfonso Soriano to the fourth spot in the lineup for the first of three games against the Texas Rangers. Soriano entered the game batting .362 in May, with eight doubles, four homers and 12 RBIs.
"We'll put him in the four-hole and try it, see how he does," said Piniella, who has batted Soriano in the No. 6 spot for most of the season.
In his career, Soriano has hit fourth in 11 games and is 8-for-41 with two home runs. He didn't mind the switch.
"I just want to be in the lineup," Soriano said. "I just want to stay healthy and be in the lineup and do the best I can to make the team better."
When he played for the Rangers, Soriano batted first, third, fifth and sixth. Never fourth.
The left fielder was a little beat up, though. His right knee was bruised after fouling a pitch off it in the ninth inning Thursday. He was then hit on the left hip by a pitch in the same at-bat. Soriano ended up walking.
"A lot of people said it was a good at-bat," Soriano said. "It's good because I got on base in the ninth inning with nobody out. For me, it's not a great at-bat because we lost. I broke two bats and I got hit twice."
Byrd returns to Texas
ARLINGTON -- This has been a busy week for Marlon Byrd, who had a mini-reunion in Philadelphia, where he began his pro career, then headed to Texas, where he played the last three seasons.
Byrd has made a good impression on Cubs manager Lou Piniella in his first season in Chicago.
"I like the way he plays," Piniella said of the center fielder, who entered Friday's game batting .325. "He's a kid who has fun. He plays hard, he hustles. He's a throwback. We've enjoyed having him. He does a nice job in center field.
"If you had 13 like him, you wouldn't have many problems," Piniella said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.