Results tagged ‘ Theo Epstein ’

4/11 Theo: “We condemn the act, support the player”

Anyone who was around Jorge Soler in Spring Training was surprised at the news that he had taken a bat and headed toward the opposing dugout on Wednesday night. The Florida State League suspended Soler five games for his actions.

“Jorge is tremendously remorseful about what happened, and understands what he did was wrong,” said Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations. “He didn’t sleep last night, was up all night thinking about it. He was very apologetic. He understands this can’t happen again and understands there will be discipline associated with it.”

Epstein reviewed the video of the incident, and talked to Soler Thursday morning. According to the outfielder, there was some talk back and forth during the game, and something was said about Soler’s family, and Epstein said, “that’s when he lost his cool.”

“He understands and we agree that’s not an excuse for what happened,” Epstein said. “He has to find a way to better manage his emotions on the field. We condemn the act and what took place but we support the player. We believe in Jorge as a person as well as a player. It’s our responsibility to work with him and make sure he has a better way to channel his emotions on the field and make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”

This spring, Soler was well mannered, friendly and had a quick smile. But he’s also young and adjusting to life in the U.S.

“This is a great kid, who has already overcome a lot in his life, and someone we’re not worried about at all for the long haul,” Epstein said. “He’s been thrust into a very high profile situation very suddenly, and it’s our job as an organization to make sure he has the tools to make good decisions even in the heat of the moment.”

The entire incident was over quickly, Epstein said.

“There was no swinging of the bat whatsoever, there was no physical contact, there was no violent act,” Epstein said. “This was merely a situation of grabbing a bat, which he shouldn’t have done, and heading toward the opposing dugout, which he shouldn’t have done.”

– Carrie Muskat

4/8 Extra bases

* Theo Epstein fully supported Dale Sveum’s decision to change closers and switch to Kyuji Fujikawa in place of Carlos Marmol.

“I think he made the right call,” Epstein said. “Marmol bounced back last year to have a really solid second half. Of course, he should’ve started this year as our closer. You don’t lose your job after two bad outings at the end of Spring Training. To do that would be counter to everything we believe in. He pitched really poorly three times to start the year,” Epstein said. “It was important for the team to make a change. We need to believe we can win these close games late. For Marmol, last year, he went back after struggling, fixed himself and came back and contributed. We need to be open to that possibility again.”

Sveum said they want Marmol to work on his pitch selection, and not get “fastball happy.”

* Darwin Barney has been cleared to do all baseball activities, but won’t get the stitches removed from his left knee until later this week. Barney, on the disabled list with a knee laceration suffered March 30 in the last exhibition game, was able to participate in all drills in batting practice. If all goes well, Barney will begin a rehab assignment this weekend at one of the Minor League teams, and then could be activated April 16.

* Matt Garza, who threw 35 pitches in his second bullpen on Sunday in Atlanta, will throw a couple more bullpen sessions and then was expected to begin a Minor League rehab assignment. Garza has been sidelined since Feb. 17 with a strained left lat. He’s hoping to return in May.

* Last season, Cubs fans had to deal with a 101-loss season. Most understood the growing pains of the team’s rebuilding process. Does Sveum expect fans to be patient this year?

“You can only have so much patience,” Sveum said. “Obviously, they were great to us in hard times last year and understanding the process in the organization. There’s only so much you can take, especially when you have some of the best fans in the country and passionate. It’s not just Chicago — we have a following throughout the whole country. The patience has to give way sometimes — that’s just the nature of the beast.”

There’s no truth to the rumor that Epstein’s hair turned gray since he took over as Cubs president of baseball operations.

“Ten years in Boston will do that to you,” Epstein said of the flecks of gray. “Lots of blown saves. I remember my first road trip with the Red Sox, we opened on the road in ’03, we blew a save Opening Day, blew another one in Toronto, blew another one in Baltimore. They might have sprouted back then. It’s not a new development.”

– Carrie Muskat

4/1 Wrigley renovations

The Cubs want to start the five-year renovation plan of Wrigley Field this offseason, but they are waiting for the city of Chicago to give them the go-ahead. Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, said he hoped to have an update later on negotiations Monday in Chicago. The renovations are important.

“I think it’s fundamentally important to get us to the next level as an organization,” Epstein said. “We have a baseball plan and a business plan and they’re timed to sync up with one another — they’re interdependent. If we don’t get our Wrigley renovation done in a timely manner and done in the right way, then we can’t accomplish our business objectives and it will certainly get in the way of us ultimately accomplishing our baseball objectives. It’s very important.”

Among the changes the Cubs want are the ability to play more night games, to install more advertising in the ballpark, to block off Sheffield Avenue for fans. Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts wanted a decision by Monday.

– Carrie Muskat

2/16 Video dude wins

Nate Halm, an assistant of video and advanced scouting, who was a late add to the Cubs staff bunting tourney because the masseuse withdrew, beat strength coach Tim Buss to advance to the players bracket on Saturday. Theo Epstein did beat GM Jed Hoyer in the first round, but Epstein then lost to Scott Harris, director of baseball operations, in the second round.

When Harris muffed a bunt against Epstein, the Cubs exec quipped: “Smart kid.” And when Harris beat him, Epstein reminded everyone: “I hired him.”

Halm beat Harris to advance against Buss. Cubs manager Dale Sveum threw to the 16 staff members. He organized the bunt tourney last year, which outfielder David DeJesus won. The players and pitchers brackets will begin this week now that the field of 64 has been completed.

“The most important match of the year was the first one,” Epstein said of beating Hoyer. “I’ve got to get better — better than Jed, which isn’t saying much. I will say Jed and I have a long history of playing pickup basketball and other sports. That one felt good. Nate, he might get an invite to camp on a Minor League contract — that was impressive.”

Epstein’s secretary Hayley DeWitte did advance further than her boss.

“Title IX is a good thing,” Epstein said.

– Carrie Muskat

2/15 Soler watch – updated

Jorge Soler reported to Cubs camp on Friday and had his first batting practice session. That may not seem like news, but watching the 6-foot-4 Cuban outfielder swing is an event. After he hit a ball over the fence in left center, Theo Epstein walked over to shake Soler’s hand, and welcome him to camp. He turns 21 on Feb. 25, and still needs time to develop but it’s fun to watch him hit.

“It’s a pretty impressive batting practice for the first day out there,” Dale Sveum said. “The ball comes off his bat like you want a ball to come off the bat if you’re a manager. I’m really, really interested to see him on the field. I’ve gotten to see him take [batting practice] and do things, but I haven’t gotten to see the instincts on the field and all that stuff. I haven’t gotten to see his arm either.”

Soler still needs time to develop. Before last season, he had played in a tournament in 2010, and then some games in the Dominican and that’s it.

“He’s still got to play and learn so much and face better pitching on a consistent basis and older pitchers who can do things,” Sveum said. “That experience factor comes in handy.”

Cubs hitting coach James Rowson went to Miami to work with Soler this offseason.

“He has the hand strength, which none of us can teach,” Sveum said. “It’s nice to watch that kind of [batting practice] but until things happen in a game is when you see why things are breaking down or why you need to make this adjustment. Does he have plate coverage? Is his bat staying in the strike zone long enough to handle a cutter on the outside part of the plate? You can go on and on.

“That’s why I’m really looking forward to games,” he said. “Mechanically, his lower half, I really like. He’s a guy who holds onto the bat with both hands, which I like, and right now, in [batting practice] it looks like it should play. It’s a pretty nice approach.”

The Cubs don’t want to rush him but when does he want to be playing in the big leagues?

“Next year,” Soler said, smiling.

– Carrie Muskat

2/11 Monday first watch

Looking ahead to the first week in Cubs camp:

* Carlos Marmol was at Fitch Park on Monday to undergo his physical and meet with manager Dale Sveum and staff. Marmol, who was charged with domestic abuse by a woman in the Dominican Republic, will give the media an update later in the day. The Cubs have investigated the matter and believe Marmol may be the victim.

“We don’t have all the information — obviously, we weren’t there — but every piece of information we were able to gather backs up Carlos’ story that he’s guilty of no wrong doing whatsoever and may in fact be the victim here if this case continues to be pursued like this,” Theo Epstein said. “All we can do is evaluate it on the merits. We do expect this matter will be behind him shortly based on the way it’s proceeding in the Dominican courts.”

* Tony Campana was designated for assignment on Sunday, but he could rejoin the team if he is not claimed by another team. Campana overcame cancer, made his debut near his hometown in Ohio, and is very popular among Cubs fans. He does have speed and the ability to create havoc on the bases. But he didn’t get on base enough — he has a .306 on-base percentage and .264 batting average.

“I think the biggest area where Tony needs to continue to work is finding a way to get on base where he can continue to use his speed,” Epstein said. “Regardless of what happens, we value his contributions, value his character and wish him the best.”

* Monday, pitchers and catchers will undergo physicals at Fitch Park with the first workout scheduled for Tuesday. Pitchers to watch include Matt Garza, coming back from an elbow injury, and Scott Baker, who had Tommy John surgery last year.

* What will be interesting to watch is who is the backup first baseman during drills once position players arrive. We’ll keep you posted.

– Carrie Muskat

2/10 Baez watch

Highly touted prospect Javier Baez will be in his first Major League Spring Training camp, but the Cubs aren’t reserving a locker for him at Wrigley Field for this season.

“When a young guy’s name pops up as being invited to big league camp, often times people think it means he’s close to the big leagues,” Theo Epstein said Sunday. “In this case, Javy’s not. He’s got significant development still ahead of him. We’re really impressed by everything he’s done but he has a lot of work to do, he knows that. … He finished the year in high-A ball and that’s about where he’s going to start.”

Baez, 20, batted .333 at Class A Peoria with a .979 OPS, 10 doubles, 12 homers and 33 RBIs, and batted .188 in 23 games at Class A Daytona. For now, he’ll stay at shortstop although fans may see him play some second base in Cactus League games just to get him some at-bats.

“He’s a shortstop and he’s going to play shortstop,” Dale Sveum said. “If he happens to get in a game at third or second base, it’ll be because of flat numbers. It’s not that we need to take a look at him anywhere else — that’ll be a development question down the road.”

The invite to the Cubs’ big league camp was made to give Baez some insight into what it’s about.

“It’s nice for the fans to be able to see him, it’s nice for us to be able to see him, but this is not about making the Major League team, this is about experience,” GM Jed Hoyer said.

The same is true for highly touted outfielder Jorge Soler. Epstein said their plan is to have players spend at least one year at Triple-A. Soler played briefly at Class A Peoria last season.

– Carrie Muskat

2/9 Extra bases

* This spring, the Cubs will have their second bunting tournament, with a slight tweak. The front office will compete for a spot in the field of 64, and Theo Epstein was expected to square off against GM Jed Hoyer in their first round match. David DeJesus won the tourney last year.

* Scott Feldman had his first bullpen session on Saturday at Fitch Park. Pitchers and catchers report Sunday, and will take physicals on Monday with the first workout scheduled for Tuesday.

* Outfielder Reggie Golden, the No. 2 pick in 2010, is healthy after suffering a hyperextended left knee in the seventh game of last season at Class A Peoria. He’s also one of the early bird position players in camp. “I’m so excited to be hitting — every time I take a swing, I’m happy to be back,” Golden said.

He’s also been impressed with how Dale Sveum interacts with the young players. “Every day, he says, ‘Good morning, how are you guys doing?’ I would love to play for him,” Golden said.

– Carrie Muskat

1/18 Arbitration deadline day

Today is the deadline for all MLB clubs to exchange salary figures with their arbitration eligible players. With Matt Garza getting a new deal late Thursday, the Cubs have two arb eligible players remaining: Jeff Samardzija and James Russell. The two sides can continue to negotiate after today, but if no agreement is reached, they will each present their case before an independent arbitrator sometime between Feb. 4-20. This is the first year Samardzija and Russell are arbitration eligible. Samardzija, who was 9-13 with a 3.81 ERA in his first full season as a starter, made $2.64 million last season, while Russell, who appeared in a career-high 77 games, made $512,500. Theo Epstein said this week he prefers to avoid an arbitration hearing.

– Carrie Muskat

1/16 Baker, Garza ready to go

The Cubs feel they’ve added much-needed depth to the pitching staff with the additions of free agent starters Edwin Jackson, Scott Baker, and Scott Feldman, and have given the bullpen a boost with Japanese pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa. However, Baker is coming back from Tommy John surgery and Matt Garza is returning from a right elbow injury. Theo Epstein said Wednesday Baker’s plan calls for him to be throwing at least 75 pitches by the end of March. If Baker needs more time, the Cubs now have enough arms to give him extra rehab starts.

“Both guys are on a nice time table for the start of the season,” Epstein said of Garza and Baker.

The other Cubs starters include Jeff Samardzija, who appears likely to get the Opening Day assignment, and Travis Wood. The Cubs also have yet to finalize their deal with free agent Carlos Villanueva. The transaction has been delayed until the team can clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

– Carrie Muskat


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