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Theo Epstein says Cubs' recent struggles are 'baseball reality'

CHICAGO -- Heading into Thursday night's game against the Atlanta Braves, the Chicago Cubs had dropped six of seven games and have not looked like the juggernaut that rolled through baseball the first two months of the season.

But where some Cubs fans see a cause for concern, Theo Epstein, the team's president of baseball operations, simply sees the natural progression of a season.

"Honestly, I think it's sort of baseball reality," he said before the makeup of an April 30 rainout. "It's impossible to win at the pace we were winning at early in the season the whole year. Every team, even championship-caliber clubs, go through a month or so where they play .500 or so baseball, and that's what we're doing. It's not surprising.

"I think our players would admit we haven't quite had the same grinding relentlessness that we had in April. I'm very confident we're going to get back to that."

Even so, many believe the recent stretch has exposed a weakness -– the bullpen –- that management needs to address before the non-waiver trade deadline at the end of the month.

"Everyone's talking about adding to the pen and I understand that," Epstein said. "But I don't think it's fair to put this recent downturn in performance exclusively at the foot of the bullpen. The reality is we haven't had the same relentless, grinding approach at the plate for the last month or so that we had in April.

"We had a rough turn or two through the rotation, which is to be expected [because] they were pitching at a historic pace. Every element of the club has played some part in us not playing our best baseball recently."

Epstein said he also believes there's enough pitching talent in the organization right now to be successful.

"It's important to remember that Trevor Cahill and Clayton Richard and Justin Grimm threw really big innings in the postseason for us last year and are certainly capable of doing it again," he said.

Considering the Cubs' history of futility, though, you can understand why some aren't taking the glass-is-half-full approach.

"People ask me, ‘Is it fair to be concerned?'" Epstein said. "Of course, it's fair to be concerned because baseball is really hard. It's hard to play at a consistently excellent level for 162 games. There should always be an element of concern.

"But if it's fair to be concerned, then it's just as fair -- if not more fair -- to be very excited about what this team is and what they're capable of and the foundation for this year and years to come."