<
>

Theo Epstein insists no major changes coming for scuffling Cubs

SAN DIEGO -- Theo Epstein visited the Chicago Cubs during their series in San Diego on Tuesday, saying he is providing "moral support" for the reigning World Series champions amid their ongoing struggles and insisting no drastic changes are imminent.

The Cubs' president was on the West Coast scouting and decided to watch the final two games of the Padres series.

"It's more important to be around when the team is struggling than when they're doing well," Epstein said. "Showing moral support can be good from time to time. Take the heat off of others when the team is scuffling."

After losing 6-2 to San Diego on Tuesday night, the Cubs' record is again under .500 (25-26). With the offense struggling, Epstein was asked if any of his young hitters might need a trip to the minor leagues. Heroes from the 2016 postseason like Kyle Schwarber (.174) and Addison Russell (.218) continue to scuffle, and once-hot rookie Ian Happ has seen his batting average drop to .231.

"Not right now," Epstein said. "You keep an open mind for everything. You have belief in certain guys' talent. You want to find a way to manifest it. It's valuable for guys to work through things up here.

"Our solution with hitters is on the 25-man roster right now."

Monday might have been rock bottom for the Cubs. They drew 10 walks against the Padres but managed only three hits and two first-inning runs in a 5-2 defeat. Overall, they rank last in the National League in hitting with runners in scoring position.

Cubs batters lead the NL in walks but are hitting .230 with men on base, the second-worst mark in the majors.

"We're a little too easy to pitch to these days," Epstein said. "We're getting beat up by the elevated fastball right now."

The Los Angeles Dodgers, in particular, took advantage of that weakness this past weekend. The Cubs went 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position in the three-game series before going 2-for-17 in two games vs. the Padres.

"Long term I'm not worried about," Epstein said. "Any time there is a sizable gap between talent and performance ... there's always reasons for it. It's hard to diagnose, that's what our players are striving for. That's why you show up every day, to be part of an organization trying to figure it out. And shorten that period of when players are struggling.

"It's a frustrating period whenever that gap exists as much as it has for this first third of the season."

Epstein was asked if he was worried the offensive struggles could continue throughout the season considering the collective age of his position players.

"You would really have to roll snake eyes for players, regardless of age, to underperform their projections or their talent level that uniformly over the course of the season," Epstein said. "It could happen, but we don't think it's going to happen.

"We just need a few guys to get going to make our offense very valuable. And we need time. ... It's on us to figure it out sooner rather than later."