Ramirez 'pumped' to return to mound

Ramirez 'pumped' to return to mound

CHICAGO -- Neil Ramirez, bothered most of the season with shoulder problems, made his first appearance on Friday since late July, and he was encouraged by the outing. The right-hander struck out two of the four batters he faced in the ninth in the Cubs' 8-3 win over the Cardinals.

"I know [Ramirez] left feeling really good about himself," manager Joe Maddon said.

It's been a frustrating season for Ramirez, who was surprised by the shoulder issues.

"At this point, I'm just competing with what I've got," Ramirez said. "Any time you're coming in against the Cardinals in September, it doesn't matter if it's one run or seven, it's a pretty big situation, and I was pumped up and ready to compete."

Ramirez has stayed sharp by throwing side sessions. He feels he has to prove to the Cubs they can count on him.

"It is what it is, because I haven't been here all year," Ramirez said. "I'm going to have to build that trust up. I wanted to show them I could do it. For me, it's about pounding the strike zone, and I was able to do that and keep the ball down. That's one thing I can do -- I was a starter for seven years, and I know how to pitch."

• Maddon doesn't feel teams are taking advantage of the rookies on the Cubs' roster.

"Gamesmanship is a wonderful part of any sport," Maddon said. "Being around our guys, I think I know many of them have gone through little moments of frustration through the course of the season. They've gone through stuff, and I think they've survived some really negative moments personally, which helps when you get to this time of year.

"When you're a veteran and you've been through it before, you have that to rely on. I have a lot of faith in our young players now. It's definitely a learning experience for them."

• The Cubs' only off-day before the end of the regular season will be Thursday.

"I'm looking forward to a good bike ride that day," Maddon said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.