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04/19/12 1:45 PM ET
Epstein urges patience amid Cubs' slow start
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
MIAMI -- Theo Epstein, in Miami on Thursday after scouting some players for the upcoming First-Year Player Draft, said Cubs fans need to look at the big picture, rather than panic over the team's slow start.
"You never want to start off poorly," said Epstein, the Cubs' president of baseball operations. "There are a lot of things we can improve upon, and we will, but you also don't want to read too much into one homestand and one road trip. Certainly, it crystallized some areas that we need to ascribe to be better."
The Cubs have been lacking in terms of speed and slugging percentage -- Alfonso Soriano, for example, entered Thursday's matchup with the Miami Marlins without an extra-base hit.
"Every team has stretches where they don't hit, and we're in one of them," Epstein said. "We have certain guys with offensive upside, and it's a continual process to have those guys reach that upside and start swinging the bat better. And the way you score runs is by getting guys on base and swinging the bat well at the same time. We don't have that right now."
Cubs manager Dale Sveum hinted he may alter the lineup for Thursday's series finale against the Marlins, but he did not.
"You want to give it a certain chance and see what happens," Sveum said. "There's always room for change."
One option is to move Bryan LaHair into the No. 4 spot instead of Soriano, who was batting .250 entering Thursday's finale.
"It's not [the lack of] home runs as much as slugging percentage that is a concern," Sveum said. "A [team] .325 slugging percentage isn't going to cut it, no matter if you're hitting home runs or not. You need those doubles when it's [runners on] first and second, you need a double when a guy's on first base to get a quick run. It's hard to string -- we're going to have a tough time stringing three, four, five hits in an inning."
The Cubs had question marks heading into the season. Ian Stewart, for example, was coming off a wrist injury and did not hit a home run in the big leagues last season. LaHair starred at Triple-A Iowa, but had a minimal track record in the Majors.
"That's why it's so hard to judge Spring Training," Sveum said. "You know once the season starts, guys will get pitched the way they're supposed to be pitched, just like how we pitch to other guys and expose weaknesses. It's very important for guys to understand that, as well as myself.
"It's still early. You don't panic, you just keep playing. Obviously, you don't want to dig too big a hole. Those kind of holes are tough to get out of."
Brett Jackson and Anthony Rizzo are doing well at Iowa, but they appear to be part of the Cubs' future and not part of the immediate picture.
"Those guys are continuing their development at Triple-A, and there are things they're working on to continue to improve," Epstein said. "We're also not giving up on guys after a homestand and a road trip. Guys need time to get into a rhythm of the season and show what they can do.
"Baseball is best understood from bigger samples and from a distance sometimes. No one wants to get off to this kind of start, and the lineup isn't performing well, but it's a little early to be thinking about those kind of moves, specifically with your better prospects."
What Epstein and the Cubs are looking at is the big picture, not the short term.
"[We look at] what will help us maximize our competitiveness in 2012, and the bigger picture is how do we build a championship-caliber organization," Epstein said. "That's a longer-term issue. When those two interests butt up against each other, we'll defer to the long term.
"There are things we can do, smaller moves we can make and probably will make over the course of the season to try to put together a club that can be more competitive. We're also looking out for the best long-term interests of the organization."