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Theo Epstein on Jorge Soler: 'This is where he belongs'

Jorge Soler is hitting just .175 with a .536 OPS including nine walks and 23 strikeouts. Jon Durr/Getty Images

CHICAGO -- Both Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein threw their support behind struggling outfielder Jorge Soler on Friday morning, reminding everyone that for most young players -- save the Kris Bryants of the world -- it takes time to succeed in the big leagues.

“Guys are asking Joe 'What do you need to see so you don’t give up on him?'" Epstein stated. “That’s absurd. If we had walked away from him last year we probably don’t get out of the Cardinals series... That’s how good he is capable of being.”

Soler reached base nine consecutive times against the Cardinals, helping the Cubs to a four-game series victory, but he’s off to a slow start this year, hitting just .175 with a .536 OPS including nine walks to go along with 23 strikeouts. Soler’s situation is at the forefront again after a four-strikeout performance against the San Diego Padres on Wednesday night, including a bases-loaded two-out whiff with the Cubs down 1-0 in the eighth inning.

“When a guy has a tough day, I don’t get carried away in a negative way,” Maddon said before the Cubs played the Pirates on Friday. “It’s part of development. It’s part of making a young player a good major-league player. There’s a lot of patience involved.”

Epstein stressed that players like Bryant, along with Kyle Schwarber and even Addison Russell, are the exceptions to the norm. They didn’t need a lot of time to adjust to the major leagues.

For now, the Cubs will play Soler when the matchup is favorable to give him the best chance to succeed. At the moment he’s getting plenty of playing time as he started both ends of the doubleheader on Wednesday and is starting Friday against lefty Francisco Liriano.

“There will be ebbs and flows to the season where he sits a few games in a row but that doesn’t mean anyone has given up on him,” Epstein said. “Over time he’s going to get plenty of at-bats, he’s going to get hot and he’s going to carry us.”

The Cubs have shown no indication they intend to send Soler to the minors for more consistent playing time, so expect Ryan Kalish to go back down once Matt Szczur comes off the disabled list in a few days. So the Cubs will keep sending Soler out there hoping for progress and another run like they got in the postseason.

“I think this is where he belongs,” Epstein said.

Maddon added: “If you put your scout’s hat on you’ll see what the eventual reward will look like.”