Cubs notes: Theo Trio all extended through 2021, and Soler update

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Player development boss Jason McLeod (left) and general manager Jed Hoyer (right) have signed extensions that keep them together with team president Theo Epstein (middle) through 2021.

CINCINNATI – Two days after announcing a five-year contract extension for team president Theo Epstein, the Cubs, as expected, on Friday said they had extended general manager Jed Hoyer and top player development/scouting executive Jason McLeod to extensions that also take them through 2021.

It ensures the club’s ability to maintain 10 years of continuity with its top baseball executives, who began an organizational rebuild in the fall of 2011. The Theo Trio appeared close to getting broken up when McLeod interviewed for the Twins’ top baseball job this month.

“Continuity is really, really important,” manager Joe Maddon said. “People don’t quite understand that unless you’re involved in that or, more important, when you’re involved in a situation where you don’t have that.

“It’s exciting. Everything about it is,” said Maddon, who took over last season as the team turned a competitive corner, guiding the Cubs to back-to-back postseasons.

Maddon, who repeatedly credits the front office with doing all the “heavy lifting” in team building before he arrived, sees the extensions of the guys at the top as an extension of the vision for a lengthy run of success as well.

“I know in the past the Cubs haven’t been as successful as they wanted to be, but I don’t know that all the different ingredients had been put into place this well,” he said. “So looking ahead, you just want to build off what you’ve done. Last year was a good building block. This year, you want to keep it moving forward, and of course our goal is to play the final game of the year and win

“Under these circumstances, I think it becomes more believable on an annual basis.”

Outfield outlook

Outfielder Chris Coghlan returned to the lineup Friday just two days after leaving a game with a “mild” ankle sprain, and looks on track to be ready for the playoffs next week.

Jorge Soler’s status for the first round could be determined in large part by Sunday’s season finale. Soler, who went on a tear during the NLDS last year, has only four at-bats in the last two weeks because of soreness in his right side.

An MRI early in the week revealed no abnormalities, the team said, and Soler on Friday said he felt good and hoped to play Saturday. Maddon said Sunday was more likely.

Given the Cubs’ expectations of playing deep into October, Maddon suggested the Cubs could play it cautious with Soler and leave him off the roster in the first round, then re-evaluate for a potential NLCS. “We have to consider all those different factors,” he said.

Z-Man earning A’s

Rookie left-hander Rob Zastryzny closed out his debut season for the Cubs with 3 2/3 innings in Thursday’s big-league starting debut in Pittsburgh – a 1-1 tie ended by rain in the sixth.

“If it is the end for me, I gave it all I had and tried to help the team as best I could,” said Zastryzny, a 2013 second-round draft pick, who didn’t give up an earned run Thursday and finished with a 1.13 ERA in 16 big-league innings. “I was really excited about how everything turned out this year.”

One rival scout who watched him pitch Thursday believes Zastryzny can be competitive for the fifth-starter job in next year’s Cubs rotation, calling him “a left-handed Kyle Hendricks.”

Zastryzny, 24, said one of the biggest things he got out of this year was watching veterans prepare.

“I know what it takes to be here; now I know what it takes to stay here,” he said. “I’ve just got to do exactly what I need to do to stay here because I love it uup here.

“It’s the greatest experience I’ve ever had in my life, and I don’t want it to end.”

Notes: Maddon said he’s known the starting four of his playoff rotation, in order, for about a week but doesn’t plan to announce it until next week. Do said pitchers know? “They’re not stupid,” said Maddon, who has Jon Lester and Hendricks lined up for the first two games Friday and Saturday. … Right-hander Jake Buchanan, who was signed by the Cubs April 3 after being released by the Astros, pitched five scoreless innings in his first start for the Cubs — his first appearance in more than three weeks — to beat the Reds 7-3. He finishes the season with one run allowed in six innings (1.50). “I was just hoping to throw strikes and compete,” said Buchanan, who over parts of three seasons has a 3.75 ERA in 50 1/3 big-league innings. “Felt good to get back out there.” … Maddon said he supported and sympathized with Reds manager Bryan Price, who wasn’t allowed enough time Thursday night to challenge a game-ending hit for the Cardinals – in part because, he said, he couldn’t hear the phone in the visitors dugout in St. Louis over the crowd noise as his video crew tried to contact him. “I’ve even thought we should actually have a blinker that comes on so that in spite of some noise they [can get through],” Maddon said. … The Reds announced a one-year extension for Price.


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