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Phil Rogers: Cubs' new management sticking with patient rebuilding plan

Published: Thursday, May 24, 2012 9:11 p.m. CDT

(MCT) — The ship is sinking, and no one seems to be feeling much urgency to save it.

Oh, Dale Sveum and his bosses with the Cubs would like more victories. But management isn't going to throw anyone a lifeline, not with so little to gain with a move toward the middle of the pack.

If President Theo Epstein signs off on a trade, it's going to be a move that subtracts a veteran, like the deals that sent Carlos Zambrano to the Marlins and Marlon Byrd to the Red Sox. It won't be one that adds a proven right-handed hitter to a lineup allergic to left-handers or a solid arm to a bullpen that features a workhorse, Sean Camp, whom the Mariners released in spring training.

Even with the Cubs mired in a nine-game losing streak entering this weekend's series in Pittsburgh, only one loss from being their worst since the 0-14 start in 1997, there have been no signs of a promotion for Anthony Rizzo, who's hitting .353 with 16 home runs and 43 RBIs in 45 games at Triple-A Iowa.

With the beginning of the amateur draft 11 days away, the big league team appears to have become a secondary consideration for Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and their many lieutenants in the baseball operations department. None of them were in Houston to watch the Astros, also under new management, sweep the Cubs.

The Cubs will pick sixth in the draft after going 71-91 last season. If they had won five fewer games, they would be picking third, and 10 fewer would have gotten them the second pick.

Epstein and Hoyer set the organization's developmental plan of action long ago, and it is built around a far more patient approach than the Cubs have shown in a long time.

Rizzo spent 68 days with the Padres last season, hitting .141 after building huge expectations for himself with Nintendo numbers in April and May at Triple-A Tucson. Skeptics wonder if the Cubs are failing to react to Rizzo's fast start because they don't want him to get another 104 days in the big leagues this season, as that would move his first taste of the free-agent window up a year _ to after 2017, not '18. But Hoyer points to the need for more minor league time as "the key driver" in the decision.

Based on his standing as one of the best high school hitters in the country, a lot of people hoped Javier Baez would go to low Class A Peoria to start the season. But Epstein assigned the Cubs' 2011 first-round pick to the extended spring program, and he's still there. Baez hit two monster home runs in a game Monday _ both estimated at more than 420 feet _ and through Wednesday had eight homers and 26 RBIs in 25 games, according to thecubreporter.com's unofficial stats.

It seems likely Baez will hit the ground running wherever he's assigned, possibly Peoria, not one of the rookie teams. But Epstein won't be the one hyping him.

He answered a query of mine earlier this week by saying Baez "is working hard in Mesa on certain aspects of his game."

OK, then. So it is safe to say that guys like Ryan Dempster, Alfonso Soriano and Starlin Castro will be working hard this weekend on "certain aspects" of winning some big league games, like pitching and hitting. There eventually may be consequences if the .341 winning percentage continues much longer, as the math works out to a 55-107 record, one more than the Astros' major league-worst a year ago. No team on either side of Chicago ever has lost that many games. This one isn't going to either. But Sveum, his coaches and their veteran players are going to have to rebuild the shattered belief system of the Cubs. It doesn't look like the cavalry is coming.

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