After their pleas for free-agent slugger Bryce Harper fell on deaf ears and empty wallets, Cubs fans shouldn't expect a major acquisition to address some of the dents the team's bullpen has suffered this spring.
"I don't foresee anything significant at this time at all," team President Theo Epstein said Thursday, two weeks before the March 28 opener against the Rangers in Arlington, Texas.
Epstein remained optimistic that Pedro Strop would recover in time from a left hamstring strain. The Cubs already will be without closer Brandon Morrow for the first month as he works his way back from right elbow surgery. Brad Brach's velocity has hovered only in the upper 80s. And left-hander Mike Montgomery didn't make his spring debut until Tuesday because of left shoulder stiffness.
In addition, left-hander Xavier Cedeno, a late free-agent signee, won't be ready for the start of the season because of a sore left wrist.
"It's better, if you're going to have these (injuries), to have them now," Epstein said. "Hopefully it will lead to a period of health later on."
Seven-time All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel remains available, but Epstein likes the team's in-house choices.
"I've been impressed by the depth," Epstein said. "We have overall (better) pen depth this year than we've had in the past. Some of the arms we'll be able to have in the Triple-A bullpen are guys we'll be very comfortable calling up. That depth will help us get through."
For now, the Cubs will rely on Brian Duensing and Brandon Kintzler, both of whom are coming off rough seasons and will earn a combined $8.5 million.
The other reinforcements -- in addition to Steve Cishek and Carl Edwards Jr. -- include free-agent signees Tony Barnette, Junichi Tazawa and George Kontos, as well as Dillon Maples, James Norwood and Kyle Ryan.
But Barnette hasn't pitched since March 3 and was sporting an ice pack on his right shoulder. Tazawa signed a minor-league deal and can opt out if he's not promoted to the majors by June 1.
"As far as how we look at possibly adding depth from the outside, same as always," Epstein said. "We're always looking to improve if we can."
Epstein clarified comments manager Joe Maddon made Wednesday about an internal meeting that addressed position players and the shape of the roster and not the bullpen.
"We're obviously looking to get better," Epstein said.
Epstein said he believes infielder Daniel Descalso's left shoulder will heal in time for opening day.
Epstein also seemed pleased with Maddon's involvement in situational hitting drills, calling the development "a great thing for everybody."
"Players have enjoyed him being that engaged in something intensely and hands-on teaching," Epstein said.
Maddon has employed various tactics, from having one of the practice fields lined to designate certain areas of emphasis in specific situations to using pitching machines and smaller baseballs thrown at closer range.
"Situational hitting is something that can be sometimes overlooked, and it can be hard for the hitting coach to be the one drilling it in," Epstein said.
"By definition, it's a selfless activity. Sometimes you're sacrificing your at-bat, your numbers, for the good of the team. When you have the manager that involved in making it such a priority, it sets the right tone for the group, and Joe has done a nice job of that."
Although the Cubs roster is virtually set, 2018 first-round pick Nico Hoerner has impressed Epstein with his professionalism and production.
"He's played well, which is impressive," Epstein said. "But even more significant is the way he's handled himself, and he's impressed everyone with his work ethic and being a good teammate and being humble and acting appropriately.
"He's had a nice experience, and his first full, bona-fide big-league camp will be easier for him now that he's more familiar with the atmosphere around the big leagues, and the players and coaches and staff got to know him better. It's been a productive scenario all the way around."
The Cubs haven't decided whether Hoerner, 21, who finished his 2018 at Class-A South Bend before injuring a ligament in his left elbow in July, will start the season at Double-A Tennessee or Class-A Myrtle Beach.