By Bruce Levine–

CHICAGO (CBS) — The slow start by outfielder Jorge Soler has been a bit of concern for the Cubs so far in the early going. As so much has gone well for the team in a 25-8 start, the hitting struggles of Soler and outfielder Jason Heyward stand out more than usual.

On Friday ahead of the opener of a three-game series against the Pirates, both Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and manager Joe Maddon tempered questions about Soler and his bad start.

The 24-year-old Soler entered Friday hitting .175 with two homers, six RBIs and a .536 OPS in 80 at-bats this season.

“This is were he belongs,” Epstein retorted when asked about a possible short minor league assignment. “He is playing today. He is playing his third game in a row. He is getting at-bats on a fairly consistent basis. There will be ebbs and flows to the season where the matchups dictate a few games off in a row. That does not mean Joe or the front office has given up on him.”

Soler has adjustments to make that only more playing time will solve. Even for top talents in the game, player development can take a while to happen. In Soler’s case, he has played only 301 games, 156 in the big leagues, in his entire professional career dating back to 2012. This fact is mostly due to injuries that have taken away from playing full seasons in the minor leagues.

“There are going to be times where he will be in the lineup every single day,” Epstein said. “You look back at the most important games we played last year, he played every day in the playoffs and carried us. This is a balancing act. Over time, he is going to get plenty at-bats, get hot and carry us at some point.”

Maddon stuck with Soler in the doubleheader loss on Wednesday against San Diego. He went 1-of-8 on the day, including an 0-for-4, four-strikeout showing in the nightcap. Soler fanned with the bases loaded and two outs in the pivotal eighth inning with the Cubs down 1-0.

By inserting Soler into the starting lineup Friday, Maddon stayed true to his reputation as a player’s manager and top player development man.

“I have seen a lot of improvement in him,” Maddon said. “I have a lot of faith in this kid. I have quoted Preston Gomez (former Cubs/Padres manager and Angels player development expert) before. He always warned me to very patient with young Latin players. Sometimes it takes a while for the adjustment to occur. If you just look back to the end of last season, what he had done in the playoffs (nine consecutive times on base against St. Louis) had never been done before.”

Maddon admits there’s still plenty of work to be done with Soler.

“His development has been spotty,” Maddon acknowledged. “In a sense, it has been due to injury. He has shown flashes of brilliance. I can understand from a fan’s perspective or (media) where you are coming from. From where I sit, it’s very easy to see what the right thing to do is. I can’t and I won’t get caught up in that kind of rhetoric. It is about a young man you develop.

“I also said we are about winning right now. Jorge can be a big part of that when you match him up right. You just have to keep throwing him out there until it clicks. Eventually it will.”

Epstein and Maddon looked good on their prognostications early Friday afternoon, as SOler singled sharply to right-center in his first at-bat.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.