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updated: 9/17/2013 11:13 PM

Praise for Cubs' Sveum but no vote of confidence

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  • The Cubs' Junior Lake reacts after striking in the eighth inning Tuesday night at Milwaukee.

      The Cubs' Junior Lake reacts after striking in the eighth inning Tuesday night at Milwaukee.
    Associated Press

  • Video: Cubs coach on dugout dustup

 
 

MILWAUKEE -- Cubs president Theo Epstein did not give manager Dale Sveum the dreaded "vote of confidence" Tuesday. Nor did Epstein give Sveum a real vote of confidence, either.

The manager was one of several topics Epstein addressed in a nearly half-hour session with beat writers before Tuesday night's 4-3 loss to the Brewers at Miller Park.

Sveum was the first major hire of Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer when they came to Chicago in the fall of 2011. The Cubs lost 101 games in Sveum's first season and are 63-88 this year after Tuesday's game.

"Dale's under contract through 2014," Epstein said. "If you're asking me about that, at the end of the year, we go through a period of evaluation of all aspects of the organization: front-office decision-making, players, coaches, manager, and we take the opportunity now with the bulk of the season behind us to discuss it internally.

"There are no alarm bells to ring, but that's a subject that gets addressed as a matter of process, as a matter of routine, after the season, after a period of evaluation, which we're in the midst of right now."

On other topics, Epstein said the Cubs are unlikely to be big players this off-season in the free-agent market.

He said the right approach with shortstop Starlin Castro is to let Castro be himself after the Cubs tried to make him into a more patient hitter.

He also said minor-league phenom Javier Baez likely would open next season as the shortstop at Class AAA Iowa and that the Cubs would look at possibly moving Baez's position if and when he is ready because of Castro's hold on short.

Sveum's status came up at the outset of the discussion in the wake of an animated discussion he had with pitcher Edwin Jackson after Sveum removed Jackson from Monday's game.

In Tuesday's game, starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija and third-base coach David Bell got into it over some Cubs infield shifting on a triple by Norichika Aoki in the sixth.

"We were just talking strategy," said Samardzija, who surpassed 200 innings and 200 strikeouts. "Just midgame stuff. It was pretty nice. We got out of it there."

Even with the losing seasons, Sveum has kept the clubhouse from imploding.

"With respect to keeping the clubhouse incident-free, I think he's done a remarkable job," Epstein said. "That (Jackson argument) really is the first such incident in two very difficult seasons, which I think is a feather in Dale's cap.

"He's got a very even-keeled calm demeanor, and I think that rubs off in the clubhouse atmosphere in general.

"I think we've been very upfront about the fact that we're not evaluating Dale on wins and losses. Our record is more a reflection of the roster that we put on the field.

"You look to other areas. There are a number of areas we are evaluating him on."

Those areas, said Epstein, include the development of young players, in-game decision making, "the way the manager uses the roster," the "ability to create a culture of accountability, hard work, preparation. Then there's the ability to develop solid, trusting relationships with players."

The Cubs' offense has been wanting again, especially with an inability to get on base. "We need to get on base more," Epstein said. "That's something we need to change."

However, he cautioned against thinking the Cubs would go out and sign big-name free agents this winter to jump-start the offense.

"Given the needs we have and where we are and the likely price tags on the market, I don't think we're going to have the ability to add, like, multiple impact pieces in free agency," he said.

"We're going to have to take a multidimensional approach to changing things. We're not going to solve our problems through free agency. It is a very viable and sometimes attractive way to add power and to be a great organization.

"It's not, given our situation on a lot of different fronts, the cure to our ills."

bmiles@dailyherald.com

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