Theo Epstein joined NBC Sports Chicago's very own David Kaplan on his ESPN 1000 radio show speaking about the state of the Cubs with only two months to go before the season ends. First, Epstein addressed Darvish's promising rehab session today.
"Threw a really good side session, threw with some intensity especially towards the end of it," Epstein explained. "Came out feeling really good and looking forward to what’s next for him. Probably a sim game."
Kaplan squeezed Epstein, asking him whether he thought Darvish would be able to pitch and be impactful to the Cubs struggling rotation, who hasn't been able to pitch for the Major League club since May 20th.
"As far as do I expect him to pitch meaningful innings, yeah I do. He’s on the comeback trail, he threw really well Tuesday. He wants to come back. There’s no significant structural damage that would prevent him from coming back we believe, our expectations are if we take our time and handle the rehab the right way he can pitch effectively, meaningful innings for us."
The Cubs President of Baseball Operations gave a quick update on both closer Brandon Morrow and 3rd baseman Kris Bryant, who are both expected to spend a good chunk of time on the disabled list. However, Epstein was rather positive on both players but did say the club would be patient with both players rehab processes.
"I haven’t been around the club for a couple of days, I’ve been getting the update from the trainers because of the trade deadline. But we’re taking our time with both guys," said Epstein. "But we're very optimistic, it’s not something we're concerned about for the long haul at all."
With the deadline officially over, the Cubs came away with three pieces in relievers Jesse Chavez and Brandon Kintzler as well as starter Cole Hamels, but the Cubs were named in plenty of rumors as the season went on. Epstein acknowledged those rumors and spoke candidly about his thought process during this year's trade deadline.
"There hasn’t been a year we don’t entertain bigger trades or smaller trades, I think every team does that. Every single attractive target we pursued in some form or another," Epstein explained. "Yeah, we went after every significant target, but when you realize what’s coming and what’s going you’re in a better position by not making the deal and move on to the next target."
But now Epstein is focused on the players currently in tow, particularly the starting pitching, which he admitted has been disappointing thus far.
"I think the focus has to be from within. We are where we are, tied for first place, tied for the best record in the (National League), but I would say we haven’t really gotten going yet. There’s tremendous room for improvement for our major league roster - especially in the starting rotation," Epstein said.
And that’s the focus, I think we’re going to go as far as our starting pitching takes us. I think that’s an area where we’ve underperformed so far and we have to get that right. "
With the addition of Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish getting closer to returning, the Cubs are still in position to take control of the division and set themselves up well for another deep postseason run.
"It’s right there for us, we have a tremendous opportunity for a year which we’ve been a little banged up and things haven’t all gone our way. It’s right in front of us and you couldn’t ask for anything more on August 1st then to control your destiny with a great group of guys."