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updated: 10/23/2012 5:30 PM

Epstein keeping focus on Cubs' long-term plan

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  • Cubs president for baseball operations Theo Epstein says he likes the progress the club has made with identifying "core" players for the team's future.

      Cubs president for baseball operations Theo Epstein says he likes the progress the club has made with identifying "core" players for the team's future.
    Associated Press/file

 
 

For Cubs president Theo Epstein, it's all about building "the core."

Epstein met Tuesday with Cubs writers and said he'd like to move away from the just-concluded 101-loss season, the franchise's first triple-digit losing season since 1966.

However, on the eve of his one-year anniversary with the Cubs, Epstein stuck to his guns about building for the future. He also said he understands the public's desire for a winner.

"I have a burning desire to satisfy the public's need to win," he said. "That's something I feel every day, my own need to win, our collective need to win. That urgency is part of what we feel every day. I also feel that the real way to satisfy that is to put us in a position to win every year and to be playing October baseball every year.

"I actually walked around Wrigley the other day, this Sunday, with my son and saw the ivy was red, orange. I just kind of flashed to how great it would be to be playing baseball this time of year at Wrigley. That's the goal, to get there, but to get there in a way to get there year in and year out."

Although the season at the major-league level was a miserable one in terms of wins and losses, Epstein said he looks back and sees that the Cubs have increased their number of "core" players, either from development from within or acquisitions from outside. He also said the Cubs won't "panic" into going for a quick-fix winning season "if it means a less healthy organization."

"You have to separate it a little bit into short-term goals and long-term goals," he said. "The way we'll define our short-term goals for 2013 is do we get into the postseason and give ourselves a chance to win the World Series? That's the short-term goal. That's the immediate goal for any season. If you fall short, you fall short. Whether you fall short by 5 games, 15 games or 30 games, you've fallen short.

"How we look at 2013 as far as the long-term goal is how many core pieces have we added. How is our foundation for sustained success evolved? If you look back at 2012 through those two lenses as far as the immediate goals, making the playoffs, we missed and missed badly. It was horrible.

"If you look at some of the factors that have a longer-term impact, I think at this time last year, at least as I looked at it, I looked at the organization and saw one player that I could feel was solidly in our core. That was (shortstop Starlin) Castro, 22 years old and everything that he had accomplished and the ability he had. I felt he was a no-brainer to be in our core."

Epstein went on to say that at the major-league level, pitcher Jeff Samardzija and first baseman Anthony Rizzo have catapulted themselves into the core and that second baseman Darwin Barney was close, if he can improve his on-base percentage. At the minor league level, Epstein cited Cuban signee Jorge Soler and recent draftees Javier Baez and Albert Almora.

"I also wake up every day and realize we lost 101 games and understand how painful that was for everybody, including me," Epstein said. "That provides further motivation to get out of this position that we're in. But I think there were a lot of positives. Our core, at least in my mind, went from one player to a half-a-dozen. If we can do that again in 2013 and we look up and have close to dozen players in that core, I'll feel great about the overall health of the organization.

"I also want to make the playoffs, so that's a big challenge. So I'm really hoping we hit on a few guys this winter and we get off to a good start and we have one of those unexpected seasons."

Bell added; Rowson retained:

The Cubs have hired former major-league infielder David Bell as their third-base coach and infield coach. Bell, 40, replaces Pat Listach, who was fired on the final day of the season.

Hitting coach James Rowson, who replaced Rudy Jaramillo in June, had the interim tag removed from his title.

Assistant general manager Randy Bush, who had that title under former GM Jim Hendry, was given a three-year contract extension, and the Cubs also promoted several baseball-operations people, many of whom were holdovers from the previous administration.

Pitching a priority:

Epstein said the Cubs likely would pursue two starting pitchers, either through trades or free agency, this winter. The starting rotation was left severely short-handed after the trading-deadline deals of Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm and the elbow injury to Matt Garza.

The Cubs have only one free agent, reliever Shawn Camp, and Epstein said the Cubs will talk to him about coming back.

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