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Epstein declines to comment on Maddon's status

@MLBastian
September 25, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein arrived at PNC Park on Wednesday and plans on remaining with the team through the remainder of its games in Pittsburgh and St. Louis. One of his tasks will be continuing a dialogue with manager Joe Maddon about the skipper’s future.

PITTSBURGH -- Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein arrived at PNC Park on Wednesday and plans on remaining with the team through the remainder of its games in Pittsburgh and St. Louis. One of his tasks will be continuing a dialogue with manager Joe Maddon about the skipper’s future.

Prior to Wednesday's game against the Pirates, Maddon said he already had a good conversation with Epstein and was looking forward to talking more over the next few days. Maddon's contract with the Cubs will expire at the end of this season and the manager noted that the sides have yet to really delve into whether an extension offer is coming.

"I don't know. I mean, again, that's what the conversations are about," Maddon said. "We've talked a lot about next year during the course of the season -- we have done that. But we haven't gotten specific at this point, right now. Like I said, over the course of the next couple days we'll talk in more detail."

In a wide-ranging discussion with reporters on Wednesday, Epstein declined to answer any questions related to Maddon's situation.

"I'm going to keep that between me and Joe," Epstein said. "It's just not something I'm comfortable talking about."

During his weekly radio chat on 670 The Score on Wednesday afternoon, Maddon said he was "very optimistic" about his future. With reporters later in the day, the manager clarified that he meant in a general sense and was not necessarily referring to his current situation with the Cubs.

"I did use the word 'optimistic,'" Maddon said. "I think that was more, my intent was to indicate as a human being I'm kind of optimistic about the future, period. That wasn't specifically about [the Cubs]. It was just being optimistic about the future."

Entering Wednesday, Maddon's .583 winning percentage as the Cubs’ manager over the past five seasons was the second-highest mark in franchise history among those at the helm for more than two years. His 469 victories were the fifth-most in Cubs history, and he is the only manager in team history to guide his club to four straight postseason berths.

That streak, which included winning the 2016 World Series to end the Cubs' 108-year title drought, is at risk of coming to a close this year. The Cubs entered Wednesday with an elimination number of one, meaning one more Chicago loss or one Milwaukee win and the North Siders will officially be out of the playoff picture.

"We'll talk it all the way through," Maddon said of his discussions with Epstein. "Listen, we have a wonderful relationship. We work really well together, so we'll talk about it some more and see where it goes."

Worth noting

• The Boston Globe speculated on Tuesday that Epstein might be a surprising candidate for the Red Sox's president of baseball operations vacancy. Epstein, who served as Boston's general manager from 2003-11, shot down that report on Wednesday.

"There's nothing to that story. I'm here," Epstein said. "We have a lot we need to work on to get back to the level we're accustomed to. I'm invested in that. That's what I'm focused on, so yeah, there's nothing to that. I will say, I have really good relationships with a lot of people there. I certainly wish them the best. It's just, there's nothing to the story."

• Maddon noted that he has no plans of playing shortstop Javier Báez (hairline fracture in his left thumb) or third baseman Kris Bryant (right ankle sprain) down the stretch. Báez had been available as a pinch-runner and pinch-hitter, but catching a ball still causes discomfort. Bryant said Tuesday he wanted to do everything in his power to return to the field after spraining his ankle on Sunday.

"There's nothing for them to prove," Maddon said. "If a guy's been hurt all year and he wants to just get out there so his mind feels better, that's one thing. But, under these circumstances, no, there's no reason to really put them back out there."

• Similarly, Maddon said he will likely give first baseman Anthony Rizzo (recently-sprained right ankle) and second baseman Ben Zobrist rest if the Cubs are officially eliminated.

• Maddon said lefty Cole Hamels (left shoulder fatigue) is "trending in the right direction" and might make another start before the season ends.

• Rookie shortstop Nico Hoerner might get a look at second base before the season ends, according to Epstein.

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.