Theo Epstein: Cubs Not Playing Anywhere Near Their Capability

(CBS) Theo Epstein admitted it’s not in his nature to relax during the baseball season, but he also understands the reality with his .500 Cubs.

Entering Thursday, the Cubs are 17-17 and suddenly sitting in fourth place of the NL Central. They just dropped two of three games against the Rockies in Colorado after being swept by the Yankees at Wrigley Field last weekend. Now, they head to St. Louis to face the rival Cardinals.

Epstein spoke of the Cubs’ early struggles with the Mully & Hanley Show on Thursday morning.

“Baseball is a game based on adversity,” Epstein said. “It’s a game that’s going to test you repeatedly. It’s going to find your weaknesses and vulnerabilities and force you to adjust. That adversity, in the big picture, is a really good thing, because it shows you where your weaknesses are. It gives you the opportunity to improve.

“Right now, we’re a .500 team. We’re probably fortunate to be a .500 team with how we’ve played. But we know where we need to improve. We’re not, as a whole, playing anywhere near up to our capability. In the big picture, I have tremendous faith in these guys over the long term to meet this adversity the right way, to find their level to improve. I put my faith in these guys over the course of the long haul. That’s why.”

The Cubs have endured early struggles with their starting pitching, which hasn’t been near its level of the last two seasons. Among their issues is the fifth starter position, which is currently unoccupied with Brett Anderson struggling and on the disabled list.

Epstein has worked to establish pitching depth for his club. That will be a continued emphasis moving forward as the organization’s young talent rises through the system and to a crowded big league level. But Epstein hopes the Cubs aren’t forced to make a move for pitching.

“We’re in a great place with our position players,” Epstein said. “It’s going to be really hard to crack this lineup. We have a lot of outstanding position player prospects on the way, as well. But we don’t have the kind of depth — and we’ve been open about that — that we want with our starting pitching. There are going to be likely changes of some sort of the next several years with the way our rotation works. It’s just natural as teams evolve.

“So at some point, we’re going to be able to pull off a deal where we trade some position player resources, probably in the form of prospects, for starting pitching to help our big league club, either in the present, the future, or probably both.

“My hope is that we’re not in the position to have to be reactive at all to recent performance, and that we make moves that make objective sense for the big picture, for the long term, based on the shape of our talent and the fact that we do need to add depth and ability to our rotation over the long haul.”

The Cubs have an off day Thursday before opening a three-game series with the first-place Cardinals on Friday. St. Louis has won six games in a row, while Chicago has dropped five of its last six.

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