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updated: 6/21/2014 10:52 AM

Epstein doubts Bryant will join big club in 2014

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  • Chicago Cubs catcher John Baker, left, tags out Pittsburgh Pirates' Ike Davis at home plate during the second inning of Friday's win over the Pirates. The play was upheld on video review.

      Chicago Cubs catcher John Baker, left, tags out Pittsburgh Pirates' Ike Davis at home plate during the second inning of Friday's win over the Pirates. The play was upheld on video review.
    Associated Press

  • Chicago Cubs players, from left, Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Mike Olt and Luis Valbuena celebrate the team's 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday.

      Chicago Cubs players, from left, Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Mike Olt and Luis Valbuena celebrate the team's 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday.
    Associated Press

 
 

First-round draft picks are all the rage these day with the Cubs. Easy does it, says team president Theo Epstein.

Third baseman Kris Bryant, last year's top selection, homered Thursday night in his first game for Class AAA Iowa after being promoted from Class AA Tennessee.

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Outfielder-catcher Kyle Schwarber, taken in the first round earlier this month, had a single in 3 at-bats Thursday in his debut for the Class A Kane County Cougars after being moved up from short-season A-ball club Boise.

Bryant now has 23 HRs for the season, but Epstein threw cold water on any speculation Bryant would see playing time with the big club this season.

"I don't foresee a scenario where he would be up this year," Epstein said Friday. "I don't think it's the right thing to do in someone's first full professional season barring extraordinary circumstances, both with respect to the player and with what's going on with the big-league club.

"I think it would be a tremendous accomplishment to dominate Double-A the way he did the first half of the season and go to Triple-A and continue his development and stay healthy all year, be productive all year and work on his weaknesses. If we can look back and see he did those things in his first full professional season, we'll be thrilled."

As for Schwarber, the Cubs drafted him as a catcher, but his future behind the plate remains uncertain. He played left field for the Cougars in his Midwest League debut, and that's where he could land full time.

"With Kyle, I talked to him about it, and we decided for this year, his first exposure to pro ball, we're going to have him spend a lot of time in left field," Epstein said. "Let him catch about once a week, twice a week, so he can stay fresh with his catching, DH some so we can keep his bat in the lineup when he needs a day off.

"We're going to sit down at the end of the minor-league season and see whether it's an appropriate time to make a call. That's a good time of the year because if we decide catching is something that we really want to pursue, we can get him a lot of work daily instructionally."

Manny getting closer:

Former big-league slugger Manny Ramirez may join Iowa next week. Ramirez, whom the Cubs signed to be a player-coach, has been working out at the team's spring facility in Mesa, Arizona.

"Manny's been doing a great job in Mesa," Theo Epstein said. "He's the first one to the ballpark every day. He's been meeting with the young kids there daily, pulling them aside, talking about hitting, talking about not making some of the same mistakes he made off the field, really keeping them focused on working hard and having a passion for the game and doing things the right way."

Ramirez, who played for Epstein in Boston, served suspensions for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy.

All or nothing:

Third baseman Mike Olt is third on the Cubs with 10 homers. But he struck out three more times Friday, giving him 65 in 154 at-bats. His batting average is .149, and Theo Epstein was asked about the possibility of Olt playing in the minor leagues.

"There have been some ups and downs," Epsteins said. "He's not backing down. He's grinding his way through it.

"Obviously, he's shown the things that make him potentially a really good player: the insane raw power, his ability when he gets his pitch to hit it out of the ballpark and then some spectacular defense at times at third base. He's also shown some of the warts in his game, as all players have, the swing-and-miss and getting out of his approach at times.

"But he's a young player and continuing to grind, and he's continuing to work on his game."

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