Theo Epstein's not hitting the panic button

Theo Epstein's not hitting the panic button
April 20, 2012, 12:39 am
Share This Post

MIAMI - The Cubs will have to do something to shake up this 3-10 team. It just won't involve promoting Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson, or making any other type of panic move.

The Cubs flew out of Miami after Thursday's 5-3 loss to the Marlins, which completed a three-game sweep that should help take the heat off Ozzie Guillen.

The Cubs are saying the right things and sticking to baseball, not politics. Their clubhouse is more professional without Carlos Zambrano, who warmly greeted Theo Epstein by the batting cage.

But the changes won't happen overnight. A road trip that began with some promise - beating the Cardinals after they raised their World Series banner - ended on a five-game losing streak.

The Cubs were outscored 34-10 during that time and the schedule doesn't get any easier from here, not with the Reds and Cardinals coming into Wrigley Field.

"You don't want to do any kind of panicking 13 games into the season," manager Dale Sveum said.

The fans would love to see Rizzo and Jackson, top prospects who are supposed to be foundation pieces for years to come. But the president of baseball operations isn't the reactionary type.

"Those guys are continuing their development at Triple-A," Epstein said. "We're also not giving up on guys after a homestand and a road trip. Guys need time to get into the rhythm of the season and show what they can do. Baseball's best understood from bigger samples and from a distance sometimes.

"No one wants to get off to this kind of start and the lineup's not performing really well right now. It's a little bit early to be thinking about those kind of moves, and specifically with your better prospects.

"Once they're fully developed, then you look and see how it fits into the big picture, what's going on with the big-league team."

Epstein - who met the team in Miami after a scouting trip for the draft - could be thinking about incremental moves. Like adding another bullpen piece, especially if Kerry Wood's right shoulder doesn't feel better by the weekend.

But the 2012 Cubs were built on starting pitching, and the Marlins (7-6) knocked out Jeff Samardzija in the fourth inning. Samardzija (2-1, 5.71 ERA) gave up five runs on eight hits and five walks. The Cubs got swept, even with the top of their rotation going this series.

"We got to win, man, that's really all there is to it," Samardzija said. "Pitchers got to pitch better, position players got to play positions better. It's all-around. There's not one thing that we need to improve on. Everybody needs to improve. It starts with yourself."

As a team, the Cubs have hit only five home runs. Alfonso Soriano doesn't have an extra-base hit yet. Marlon Byrd (.075) continues to spiral downward. Geovany Soto (.167) is also struggling at the plate.

"Nobody's going to put our head down right now," outfielder David DeJesus said. "It's not like we're coming here to just hang around and have fun. We want to win baseball games and we just got to get better as a team.

"We got to focus and take every at-bat the way professionals do. And I feel that will lead to better, big innings and Ws in the win column."

This front office has promised to block out all the noise. Sveum sees effort, and there's not much he can do with the lineup. The clubhouse chemistry seems to have improved. But it still might be time for some earplugs.

"There are things we can do," Epstein said, "smaller moves that we can make, and probably will make, over the course of this season to try to put together a club that can be more competitive - (while) also looking out for the best long-term interests of the organization.

"View those things through that lens - not through what we look like two weeks in. You got to keep the big picture in mind sometimes."