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posted: 9/20/2013 9:03 PM

Epstein reiterates: Sveum subject to evaluation process

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  • Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum (4) stands in the dugout before a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013.

    Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum (4) stands in the dugout before a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013.


Cubs president Theo Epstein wasn't walking back his comments of earlier this week as he made an on-field appearance Friday at Wrigley Field.

Those earlier comments centered around the future of manager Dale Sveum, who got no public assurance that he'd be back next year.

Epstein stuck to his guns Friday, saying the Cubs were "evaluating," but he did manage to sprinkle in liberal amounts of praise for Sveum.

One of the first things he did when he walked onto the field was to head over to the batting cage and chat up Sveum for several minutes in what looked to be a very friendly conversation.

When Epstein made his original comments in Milwaukee on Tuesday, he said there was no reason for "alarm bells." But that's exactly what Epstein set off in the media and with the public, as speculation centered on the Cubs waiting for other, bigger-name, managers to become available after the season ends in just over a week. Read the Yankees' Joe Girardi and the Twins' Ron Gardenhire.

Epstein wouldn't go near a question on Girardi on Friday, terming it "borderline disrespectful."

Instead, he stuck to script. He also didn't blame the media, saying he understands the hubbub.

"Unless you have one of those years where almost everything goes right and your players develop the way you want, then you have to go through an evaluation process," he said. "We wouldn't be doing our job if there wasn't an evaluation process. Unfortunately, and I totally understand it on your end (the media's), it became a story because we answer questions honestly or we try to.

"(It was asked): 'Is anyone definitely coming back?' At this point, well, no, because we're in the midst of an evaluation process. That's really standard for this time of year, and it will be resolved quickly after the season, and we'll move forward. I'm proud of a lot of what Dale and his staff have accomplished with the big-league team in certain areas.

"I gave an answer that could be interpreted a number of different ways, but the bottom line is we have a process every year at the end of the season unless it's been like a perfect season and everyone gets pats on the back. But until we get to where we want to be as an organization, everyone, including myself, gets evaluated."

I maintain it would be unfair to fire Sveum after saddling him with two of the worst rosters in Cubs history. Epstein was asked to name the positives he saw on this year's big-league roster.

"Travis Wood and (Welington) Castillo really stand out as players, still youngish-type players who took their game to the next level," he said of the left-handed pitcher and the catcher, respectively. "It's a credit to those guys and to Dale and the coaching staff.

"The defense has stabilized over the course of the season. The bullpen transformed itself from a really tough start to being respectable now. The starting rotation has been really consistent. For a while, we had as many innings out of our starters as just about anyone in baseball. That's an essential foundational piece for a winning team.

"Our guys have done a nice job with our pitchers, getting the most out of our pitchers and allowing our pitchers to grow a little bit."

Epstein also cited the progress in the minor-league system. Shortstop Javier Baez tore it up at the Class A and Class AA levels. The Cubs feel they drafted well and added talent through international signings and via trades for veteran players.

"There have been a lot of positives," he said. "We haven't had the year we've wanted. There have been some things that have gone wrong. You've watched it so you know what those are. It's been a mixed bag. It's been a mixed bag for the organization as a whole.

"We've had about as good a year as we could have ever expected in terms of player development and, to a certain extent, talent acquisition, too. I'm really proud of all of our staff's player-development folks. If you look at where our system is now, I think it's a huge step forward. There is still room for growth, but as far as the progress we're making, we're right where we want to be. Who knows how other people see it, but we think we have one of the top farm systems in the game, and we couldn't be more excited about our future."

Whether that future includes Sveum remains to be seen.

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