PITTSBURGH -- It was a much more relaxed-looking Theo Epstein who greeted the media Monday than the guy who presided over his first Cubs Opening Day a year ago.
The second-year Cubs president entertained reporters for about 10 minutes before his team beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-1.
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"Good, excited," Epstein said of his feelings. "I think we made a lot of progress last year. Now, it's time to go out and compete and see if we can get off to a good start and see if we can find ourselves right in the middle of this thing, as we want to be."
Talking outside the Cubs clubhouse to avoid a morning rain-snow mix, Epstein's topics included the state of the organization and the proposed Wrigley Field renovations.
"I feel the organization's really unified compared to a year ago at this time," Epstein said. "We were trying to explain what the vision was, to get people to buy in. Now, a year later, with some change in personnel and with some people who are still here who are fully empowered, the entire place is really united behind this vision."
Although Epstein said he is "not out front" in the talks with the city of Chicago to renovate Wrigley Field, he did say a modernized ballpark is key to building a successful baseball operation.
"I think it's fundamentally important to get us to the next level as an organization," he said. "We have a baseball plan, and we have a business plan. They're timed to sync up with one another, and they're interdependent.
"If we don't get our Wrigley renovation done in a timely manner and done the right way, then we can't accomplish our business objectives. That would certainly get in the way of us ultimately accomplishing our baseball objectives. It's very important."
The Cubs have opened the season with five players on the disabled list. Of those five, Darwin Barney, Ian Stewart, Matt Garza and Scott Baker figure to be key players.
However, Epstein said he feels the Cubs have the depth to withstand the absences.
"I think the answer to that is yes because we have already suffered some pretty significant injuries and feel we can definitely compete with the team we're putting on the field right now," he said. "I think we're going to try to turn these early injuries into a positive, where if we can get off to a good start in April and with the weather ... they are often low-scoring games, there's a real fine line between victory and defeat.
"The key is good execution and playing smart baseball. If we can play well right (out) of the chute, we know we're getting some really good players coming back off the DL pretty soon."