PITTSBURGH — Whether Cubs manager Joe Maddon is back next season, it seems clear at least that team president Theo Epstein will be.
Epstein, who’s under contract through 2021, refuted a report in the Boston Globe suggesting he could be a candidate to return to Boston to replace recently fired Red Sox baseball operations president Dave Dombrowski. He said he plans to remain in Chicago.
“There’s nothing to that story,” Epstein said before the game against the Pirates. “I’m here. 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.”
Epstein, who was raised in the Boston area and was the Red Sox’ general manager from 2002 to 2011, said this month that neither he, general manager Jed Hoyer nor executive Jason McLeod was linked to the Red Sox position.
“That’s still true,” Epstein said.
“I have really good relationships with a lot of people there, and I certainly wish them the best, but there’s nothing to that story.”
Epstein joined the team Wednesday and is expected to remain with the club through the season-ending road trip. His agenda was to include meeting with Maddon, whose five-year contract expires after this season, to discuss his future with the Cubs.
Stars are out
Maddon said third baseman Kris Bryant (ankle) and shortstop Javy Baez (thumb) are considered out for the rest of the season. And after the Cubs were officially eliminated a few hours later, that probably goes for first baseman Anthony Rizzo (ankle), too.
Rizzo, who made a dramatic and painful return to the lineup only four days after suffering the bad sprain, was replaced in the field once the Brewers opened an 8-1 lead on the Reds on the way to clinching the National League’s final wild-card berth.
“If a guy’s hurt all year, and he wants to get back out there so his mind feels better, that’s one thing,” Maddon said. “But under these circumstances, there’s no real reason to put them back out there.”
Hamels, however . . .
Left-hander Cole Hamels, who was scratched from his last start because of “shoulder fatigue,” has fared well in recent days and could be scheduled to make a final start during the weekend series in St. Louis.
“He’s really trending in the right direction, and I think he’s going to want to get back out there,” Maddon said of the four-time All-Star, who is a free agent this winter.
Focus shifts for Nico
Look for rookie Nico Hoerner to finally get a day off Thursday with the Cubs officially eliminated.
The team has shifted its focus this week to next season.
“Maybe we let him play second base a game so the coaching staff and Joe can see what that looks like and give Nico that experience,” said Epstein, who expects to let Hoerner compete for a roster spot next spring.
Epstein “had a few thoughts” on Maddon’s conjecture Tuesday that perhaps some of the Cubs’ problems in night games on the road had something to do with players not going out for beers together as often as some recent past Cubs.
“My first thought, and I ran this by him,” Epstein said, “was I’m not sure that theory is worth anything, but why don’t the two of us go test it out tonight.”