PITTSBURGH -- Aramis Ramirez has an opt-out clause in his contract after the 2010 season, giving him an opportunity to test free agency if his $14.6 million salary is below fair-market value.
But after learning how valuable he is to the Cubs during his two-month stint on the disabled list, Ramirez may want to start renegotiating now.
Before the Cubs were shut out for the eighth time on Tuesday in a 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh, Ramirez laughed at the idea and said the Cubs' hitting woes were not related to his absence.
"Nobody is hitting right now," he said. "We're pitching real well, but we're not scoring runs. I'm sure when I went down it was going to affect us a little bit, but we've still got guys capable of doing better than what we're doing right now."
The Cubs are 2-7 on the road trip and gasping for air.
Will Ramirez's return Monday get the Cubs back on track?
"I don't think 'Rami' is going to hit a three-run bomb with nobody on," Geovany Soto said. "Rami is a huge RBI guy for us, but if we're not on base, he really can't do much."
The Cubs wasted another strong starting performance on Tuesday, registering only six hits off Russ Ohlendorf (7-6) and two relievers. Ted Lilly allowed two earned runs on eight hits over seven innings but hasn't notched a win since June 9.
"I think we've forgotten how to hit," manager Lou Piniella said. "I think that's the problem, especially with men on base."
The Cubs also suffered from concentration lapses by Soto and Lilly. Soto tried to go from first to third on a single to left field in the seventh and was easily thrown out.
"Really bad play," Soto said.
Piniella wholeheartedly agreed.
"Terrible baserunning mistake," he said. "Soto had stopped for a second. Maybe he was trying to deke him. Not a good play. Not good baserunning."
Lilly muffed an easy throw from Soto to allow Freddy Sanchez to score from second on a wild pitch after a strikeout that would've ended the fourth.
"Should've caught it," Lilly conceded. "For some reason, I just didn't see it very well."
Trailing 3-0 in the eighth, the Cubs had runners on second and third with no outs. But Alfonso Soriano struck out, and Piniella let Kosuke Fukudome bat against Pirates left-hander John Grabow. After another strikeout, Derrek Lee grounded out to end the threat. Piniella said he would've pinch-hit Reed Johnson for Fukudome, but Johnson is on the DL, too.
"The way we are put together, we need all the pieces," Piniella said.
The Cubs are 20-24 since Ramirez went on the disabled list, and the $140 million payroll is now filled with low-salaried players who are also under intense pressure to produce.
Tuesday's lineup featured five players from the farm system -- Soto, Jake Fox, Micah Hoffpauir, Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot -- with Andres Blanco and Koyie Hill on the bench.
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