Epstein: No urgency to reach new deal

Cubs president of baseball operations in final year of contract

Epstein: No urgency to reach new deal

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Friday that he and team owner Tom Ricketts will likely have conversations this spring about a new contract, but emphasized it was not a concern at this point.

"I'm sure those conversations will take place in a natural course of events," Epstein said Friday. "Spring Training is always a good time to have those type of conversations. There's nothing scheduled and no sense of urgency. We agree on the fundamentals that I want to be here, and I think [Ricketts] wants us here. It'll take care of itself."

Epstein signed a five-year contract with the Cubs in October 2011.

"This is a special place and a special time to be in this place," Epstein said of the Cubs, who reached the postseason last year for the first time since he was hired.

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• Who will lead off for the Cubs? Manager Joe Maddon said he's looking at Jason Heyward or Ben Zobrist, and he wants to talk to both about the role.

"I have not written anything down in pen whatsoever," Maddon said of his lineup. "I know 'Zo' is comfortable with it. I've got to hear Jason's feelings about it and work it from there. We need to decide on No. 1, and everything will flow after that."

• The Cubs will use Travis Wood, Trevor Cahill, Clayton Richard and Adam Warren as starters this spring, partly to stretch them out and also to not overwork the projected five-man rotation. They want to make sure everyone is prepared for an extra month of games.

"They have to be ready and well on Opening Day," Maddon said of the rotation of Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks. Arrieta and Hendricks both are coming off seasons in which they set career highs in innings pitched.

Wood, Cahill, Richard and Warren have all started in the big leagues, and having the versatile arms in the bullpen creates a unique situation.

"We might have our sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth starters all in our big league bullpen," Epstein said, noting that even though the Cubs' rotation was fairly healthy last season, they still used 10 starters. "We'll see how it shakes out."

• The Cubs signed right-handed pitcher Aaron Crow to a Minor League deal and have released non-roster invitee Luis Cruz, who failed his physical. Crow, 29, is coming off Tommy John surgery, which he had last April. He has appeared in 254 games over four seasons with the Royals. He last pitched in the Major Leagues in 2014, posting a 6-1 record and 4.12 ERA over 67 relief appearances.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.