4/5 Villanueva to start Sunday

Rick Renteria confirmed Saturday that Carlos Villanueva will start on Sunday in the series finale against the Phillies. Villanueva, named the fifth starter in Spring Training, was needed to pitch in relief Monday and Wednesday in extra inning games against the Pirates, and took the loss in both.

The right-hander can only hope he continues the strong outings so far by Chicago starters. In the first four games, the Cubs starters have combined for a 1.78 ERA, giving up five earned runs over 25 1/3 innings. They haven’t gotten much offensive support, though.

“It’s early,” said Travis Wood, who posted a quality start but took the loss on Friday. “We have a good group of guys here who are gamers and they’re going to find their stroke and put some runs up on the board.”

Renteria said the players’ approach at the plate is fine, and noted that the Cubs did out-hit the Pirates in the opening series.

“It’s not so much offensive struggles — it might be situational struggles at times,” Renteria said. “As long as our pitching keeps us in the game and we catch the ball, we have a good chance every single day to win a ballgame.”

The Cubs rank 14th in the National League with runners in scoring position, batting .121 (4-for-33) in the first four games.

– Carrie Muskat

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