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As the curtain rises on the Theo Epstein era, it's not hard to find optimism around the Chicago Cubs.

Of course, the anticipation is more for what the future holds than what's standing right in front of them, starting with Thursday's opener against Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals.

The Cubs underwent a major overhaul in the offseason, bringing in Epstein as president of baseball operations and general manager Jed Hoyer. They hired Dale Sveum as manager and parted ways with Carlos Zambrano and Aramis Ramirez after going 71-91.

Epstein put together the team that ended Boston's 86-year-old drought in 2004 and won another title in 2007, and the Cubs are hoping he can stop a World Series championship skid that dates to 1908.

The Cubs play their season opener today at the "Friendly Confines."  The Cubs and Washington Nationals square off at Wrigley Field, with first pitch at 1:20 p.m. Central.  Ryan Dempster takes the hill for Chicago, while Stephen Strasburg makes his first Opening Day start for Washington.

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