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Cubs pitching coach out, too? Team won’t say as speculation increases

CARLSBAD, Calif. — After just one year as the Cubs’ pitching coach, Jim Hickey may be unlikely to return as the front office continues to put off revealing the makeup of the 2019 coaching staff.

Indications are that Hickey, a Chicago native, could be gone despite his pitching staff surviving a slew of injuries and serving as the strength of a 95-win team in the first year of his multiyear deal.

Both hitting coaches are out, with Chili Davis fired after one year and replaced by Anthony Iapoce, and assistant Andy Haines hired away by the Brewers. Bench coach Brandon Hyde is back after interviewing for several managerial openings.

“That’s not a subject that I’m able to address at this point,” team president Theo Epstein said of Hickey on Wednesday during the general managers meetings.

Hickey with pitcher Yu Darvish in April

Manager Joe Maddon, who has taken the Cubs to the postseason in all four of his years at the helm, brought in Hickey, his former pitching coach with the Rays, after Chris Bosio was fired a year ago.

“With Hick we got off to a little shaky start with our starting pitching,” Epstein said. “But that became a strength of the club by the end of the year, and our bullpen was really solid all year.

“Our pitching wasn’t really the issue last year. It was our second half offense more than anything.”

Epstein said Monday that Maddon will enter the final year of his contract in 2019 without an extension. His status will be evaluated at or near the end of the season.

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“When I say that we’re not giving him an extension this winter, it’s not punitive at all, and it’s not a foreshadowing of changing managers, per se, either,” Epstein said Wednesday. “It’s a decision that we made, that our focus is on — all of us — to get the most that we can out of 2019 and evaluating from there.

“I’m excited about Joe being all in on 2019 and being right in the middle of everything that’s going on with the team and deepening his relationships and communication with players and being incredibly committed as he is to getting the most out of these guys and recognizing what a pivotal year it is for a lot of our players in their major-league development and the organization as a whole.”

Meanwhile, on the South Side

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn suggested the multiyear extension the Sox gave manager Rick Renteria in spring training might only be the beginning for the one-time Cubs manager, who in 2019 starts his third year with the Sox.

“We’re thrilled with [his performance]. We expect him to be here for a long time,” Hahn said. “Everyone who’s following us on a regular basis knows that we believe in him for the long term.”

The Sox hired Renteria two years after the Cubs fired him just one year into a three-year contract to hire Maddon.

“[I’m] very happy that the organization I care for deeply feels that myself and our staff are moving in the right direction,” Renteria said via text message. “We will continue to give it our all as long as we are here.”

Hold that thought

Agent Scott Boras said he and client Kris Bryant are open to listening to offers on a long-term contract extension for the former MVP, who’s in his second winter of arbitration eligibility.

“We’re open to conversation, and we’re always there to talk and welcome the thoughts,” he said. “So if they’re wanting to do that, we’re all ears.”

The Cubs are not expected to broach this issue this winter.

Contributing: Daryl Van Schouwen