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New Cub Stewart will replace Ramirez at third

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CHICAGO (AP)

Ian Stewart says injuries are really not an excuse for his head-turning poor season with the Rockies last season. But when knee and hamstring problems struck during spring training, a really slow start followed.

Stewart never could have imagined how slow. In 2009, he hit 25 homers for the Rockies and added 18 more the following season, a big left-handed bat and steady glove at third.

But last year he got off to a 2-for-26 start at the plate and then went 1-for-21 after being recalled from the minors. He ended up batting .156 with no homers in the majors in 48 games.

Colorado traded him to Chicago this week and the Cubs are hoping the change of scenery will help. If Stewart can be the hitter he was two years ago, he will help replace slugging third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who departed in free agency.

''I'm not a guy who's always been hampered by injuries throughout my career. ... Lingering issues have been my problem. For whatever reason this year it was,'' Stewart said Friday. ''Missing so much time in spring training I think really set me back the whole year. ... Injuries, they do play a part on a guy's season and how ready they are for the season to start and how things go throughout the season.''

Stewart and minor league right-hander Casey Weathers were sent to the Cubs on Thursday for outfielder Tyler Colvin and infielder DJ LeMahieu. Colvin had a similar experience. He hit 20 homers as a rookie for the Cubs as a rookie two years ago and then struggled mightily last season and spent a good portion of time at Triple-A.

Stewart is the first player acquired in a trade since president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer came on board in Chicago. The Cubs earlier signed free agent outfielder David DeJesus, another player coming off a sub-par year.

''I was never really a big change of scenery guy,'' Stewart said in response to a question. ''I always felt like I fit in great with the Rockies when I was there. It just didn't seem like all the time I was always given the best opportunity to play. ... I think this gives me a great opportunity to come in and be that everyday third baseman and to get those 500 or 600 at-bats that I need to be able to be successful.''

Stewart hurt his wrist during the season, adding to his woes, but the Cubs are confident he's healthy.

''The wrist was never an issue until July when I hurt it. By that time the season was already a loss for me, so to speak, as far as production goes,'' Stewart said.

He tried everything to shake his slump, taking advice got from his AAA batting coach and trying to apply it in the majors. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not. And he tried to make adjustments at the plate.

''When you struggle at the big league level like I was and like guys before, you can get desperate,'' Stewart said. ''There is a lot of pressure in this game to do well, so I was willing at that point with how my numbers had been and how they were going that year, I was willing to try anything.''

He's hoping to speak with Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo and see if he can get a few pointers before spring training opens in February.

When Epstein called him and told him the Cubs wanted him to be the third baseman, Stewart it was a confidence boost he needed, especially considering Epstein's reputation as the builder of two championships with the Red Sox.

Stepping in for Ramirez could be a challenge. Ramirez had 26 homers and had 93 RBIs last season and was a longtime run producer.

''It's not something I'm going to be thinking about, `Hey I'm replacing this guy or I have to as well as him or better than him or whatever.' I realized what he did for this organization while he was here,'' Stewart said. ''I hope I can come in and do well and get the same support he got.''

Tagged: Brewers, Cubs, Rockies, Aramis Ramirez, Ian Stewart

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