4/4 Extra bases
* The Cubs headed into Thursday’s game 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
“We haven’t had real bad at-bats, but we obviously haven’t had the results,” Dale Sveum said. “Your approach is to get elevation with men in scoring position, whether it’s third or whatever, you get something in the air and don’t ground out to the corners. Pitchers are always trying to get you to ground out to the corners. You want to get the ball up, out over the plate.”
* After Thursday, the Cubs begin a stretch of 19 consecutive games against teams that finished above .500 last season.
“We don’t look at it as tough, but a way to show what we’ve got from the beginning,” Chicago pitcher Carlos Villanueva said. “I think it’s better we face those teams and we face good competition early on to test ourselves and see how well we are this year.
“It’s such a long season and we’re not going to think about winning one series or two series — we have to focus on winning ballgames one at a time,” he said. “It’s so cliche, it’s so boring, but it is how it is. For us to be playing tough teams now, the Braves, the Giants, the Brewers, the Reds, it’s good. We get a chance to show what we’ve got early on.”
* Scott Feldman will make his Cubs debut Friday night when the team opens a three-game series against the Braves.
“I’m kind of anxious,” Feldman said Thursday. “Sitting here, watching these games, I want to get that first one under my belt and get off to a good start.”
It’s not only a new team for Feldman, but he’s going to be pitching in ballparks and cities he’s never been in. Atlanta is on that list. The good news is that Feldman has seen the Cubs play some good defense in the first two games.
“You can get some momentum on your side with a good play,” he said. “We had it happen a couple times on Opening Day. Guys back there are pretty solid on ‘D’ so hopefully they’ll keep it going.”
* As far as Sveum is concerned, he’d like to keep the designated hitter in the American League. This year, adding the DH to the National League will likely be discussed as teams play Interleague games every day of the season.
“I enjoy the National League game, and I enjoy managing the National League game,” said Sveum, sticking to tradition.
The Cubs will need a DH May 27-28 against the White Sox, June 4-5 versus the Angels, June 28-29 when they face the Mariners, and July 2-4 versus the Athletics. They have some candidates, including switch-hitter Dioner Navarro, Steve Clevenger and Alfonso Soriano.
Some have said American League teams are at a disadvantage in National League parks because their pitchers haven’t batted as much.
“I think it works both ways,” Sveum said. “We go to an American League park and have to use a DH but we didn’t build our team with a DH. They pay people a lot of money to DH. That’s part of their game. We’re fortunate because our pitchers can swing the bat pretty good and that’s an advantage to us.”
* Matt Garza will join the Cubs Friday in Atlanta and was to begin throwing off the mound. Second baseman Darwin Barney, rehabbing from a laceration in his left knee, is able to swing in the batting cage, but still needs to keep his leg extended.
— Carrie Muskat