Epstein likes the identity Cubs are creating

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Cubs rookie Addison Russell made his Wrigley Field debut Monday night.

    Cubs rookie Addison Russell made his Wrigley Field debut Monday night. Associated Press

  • Two of the top prospects in major-league baseball -- Kris Bryant, left, and Addison Russell -- are starting for the Cubs.

    Two of the top prospects in major-league baseball -- Kris Bryant, left, and Addison Russell -- are starting for the Cubs. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 4/27/2015 9:31 PM

There's a lot to be excited about at Wrigley Field these days.

Fans who showed up for Monday night's series opener against the Pirates probably expended most of their energy trying to stay warm, what with a game-time temperature of 43 and a windchill factor of 34.

 

Media members did manage to surround team president Theo Epstein before the game. Because it's still early April, Epstein was more content to talk about things he's seen rather than results or the team's 10-7 record coming into the game.

"I really think it's the best-case scenario as far as the identity of the team, the mood and the spirit surrounding the team, fighting through 27 outs," he said. "That's been fantastic. It's been a lot of fun to be around. I don't want to really over-analyze the early-season performance because baseball is all about grinding out through six months and you'll end up where you're supposed to be."

In each of his four seasons at the helm, Epstein talked of getting off to a good start. This year, with better talent on the field, the Cubs have finally done that.

"We wanted a good April, and we're on our way to having one," Epstein said. "I think it's been earned. The guys have fought hard every game. I really like the identity that we're creating for ourselves."

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Since the season started, the Cubs have added young prospects Kris Bryant and Addison Russell to the big-league roster. They joined "core" young players Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Jorge Soler.

"The young guys are here for a reason," Epstein said. "They play the whole game. Smart players with good heads on their shoulders or they wouldn't be here at this young age. That helps during the adjustment period all young players go through."

Even with a roster full of young hitters, the Cubs went into Monday's game in unfamiliar territory: fourth in the National League in on-base percentage. They also were third in walks taken, and those have been chronic problems for Cubs teams in recent years.

"It's early to focus on results, but the quality of at-bats and the type of approach that we have, those things have been impressive -- looking for pitches we can drive or spitting on pitcher's pitches early in the count even if they're strikes," Epstein said. "They're comfortable hitting deeper, hitting with two strikes. It's been great. We've been getting on base a lot via the walk, which has set the table for some big innings."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Russell made his Wrigley Field debut Monday and batted for the first time in the third inning. Although he didn't get the kind of fan reception Bryant did during his April 17 debut, Russell still managed to get a nice hand when he came up.

"Just kind of soaking everything up," he said. "And just thinking about my family. They've helped me so far. It's just good to have them watch me play. It's kind of humbling. You have your big supporters there. It's kind of a warm feeling."

And any kind of warmth was welcome on this night.

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