"I'm not late," Ramirez said. "I'm just not early like the other guys. I'm on time."
The good news is that Ramirez arrived healthy. He stuck to the offseason conditioning program he used one year ago, which focuses on strengthening his legs. He's heard the criticism that he didn't hustle. It wasn't a lack of effort; he was told to take it easy by the medical staff and coaches.
"Sometimes only the players and the trainers know what's going on," Ramirez said. "Sometimes it looks like you don't hustle, but you're not 100 percent. You can have problems with your legs, and nobody knows that."
Cubs manager Lou Piniella doesn't foresee any issues.
"This guy's a professional," Piniella said. "He's an All-Star type quality player. In fact, down the road a little bit, we'll talk to him a little bit about leadership on this team. I don't anticipate any problems."
Piniella wouldn't reveal possible punishment if a player doesn't hustle.
"I've been managing 18 years, and I've never had that as an issue on any team," Piniella said. "It doesn't take much effort to come out and work hard for three hours a day."
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry did his part to provide enough bench players, so Piniella will have depth if someone does need a day off.
"If a guy has some problems, we'll give them a few days off," Piniella said. "That's why it's called a team, and that's why you have a bench. I like the idea of playing my bench, I like the idea of resting my players, I like the idea of resting the team. That's how you have a nice, fresh team in August and September. If a guy has a problem with his legs, and it's cold and rainy out, put somebody else out there."
Last season, Ramirez played in 157 games, the most since 2001. He also belted 38 homers and 119 RBIs while batting .291 overall. Expect Ramirez to bat fourth, behind Derrek Lee. Next on the third baseman's wish list is a Gold Glove.
"I'm trying to -- I'm working for it," Ramirez said. "I'm working on my defense every offseason every year. I'm getting better every year. One day I'll get one for my kids."
He didn't reveal any numerical or statistical goals.
"That's my goal, just to be out there," Ramirez said.
Winter rules: Ronny Cedeno had a strange offseason. Cedeno got into a fight in a Winter League game with Geremi Gonzalez after the pitcher threw a fastball at the shortstop's head.
"I don't know if he was ticked off," Cedeno said of Gonzalez. "The last game, he struck me out and he did something that I didn't like. The next at-bat, I got a home run off him, and I got four RBIs. He was upset because I got a home run."
No one was hurt or suspended from the incident.
Cedeno arrives in camp uncertain about his status on the team. Cesar Izturis is projected as the starting shortstop.
"I worked on making adjustments a little bit, and tried to be more disciplined at home plate and tried to come back and get my swing back," Cedeno said. "I think I worked more with an inside-out swing. It helped me a lot. I had a good winter and tried to get better so I can show the people I can play in the big leagues here. I can be a regular here; I don't want to be a backup. We'll see what's going to happen. It's a new year. Let's see what I can do."
Looking ahead: Lee says his daughter, Jada, is doing well despite the unexpected vision loss she encountered last year in her right eye from Lebers Congenital Amaurosis (LCA). Jada was diagnosed with LCA, an inherited form of blindness, on Sept. 14. Lee will never forget the date.
"There's people who have it but can still see, they still have sight," Lee said. "There's still hope. There's always hope. You always have to have hope. There's different variances of it. They can't say she'll have this, or she'll have that."
Anyone interested in helping Lee's efforts to find a cure through Project 3000 should go to www.1stTouch.org or www.carverlab.org/project3000 for more information.
Quote of the day: "There's some talent here. One of the things I did tell this team is I've been fortunate in my career as a manager to manage some very talented teams, and I told them there's as much talent in this clubhouse as any team I've ever managed, and I meant it. Now it's up to our guys to work hard and myself and my staff to get these kids prepared to play. There's a ton of talent here, believe me." -- Piniella, on his message to the players
Extra bases: Piniella and Alfonso Soriano are featured on the cover of the Feb. 26 issue of Sports Illustrated. ... Good news for Daryle Ward. He found his suitcase. Ward had mistakenly taken the wrong bag when he arrived in Phoenix.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.