New starters try to carry on strong start

Scott Feldman and Carlos Villanueva will make their Cubs debuts against the Braves. USA TODAY Sports

ATLANTA -- Two newcomers to the Chicago Cubs' starting rotation will try to pick up where their first three pitchers left off in Pittsburgh as the Cubs took two of three from the Pirates to begin the season.

Scott Feldman makes his debut Friday night against the Atlanta Braves and Carlos Villanueva gets the nod on Saturday. Both were signed as free agents this past offseason.

"Being on a new team is a whole new experience for me," said Feldman, who spent parts of the past eight seasons with the Texas Rangers. "Same with Carlos."

Both will try to impress their new very passionate fan base.

"I understand from a fan's (perspective) because I am a fan, first," Villanueva said. "I understand all that. I know 'It's a new guy on the team, let's see what he has.' "

Feldman didn't have much in spring games with an 11.25 ERA in the Cactus League.

"Spring training is more about getting comfortable with everything," he said. "It's practice."

Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood combined to allow just two runs and six hits in 19 innings against the Pirates to open the season. Feldman and Villanueva know they need to keep it going.

"Yeah, we just want to repeat that," Feldman said.

Villanueva was signed as a long reliever but early injuries to Matt Garza and Scott Baker opened a spot for him in the rotation -- at least for now. He's thankful he knew early in February he'd be starting.

"It definitely helps," Villanueva said. "It helps knowing my role. I've only had that opportunity once before, back in '08 (with the Milwaukee Brewers), but I didn't know what to do with it. I was too young."


Starlin Castro is expected to play in his 200th consecutive game on Friday, the longest streak in the National League and second-longest (Prince Fielder, 345) in the majors.

• After three games the Cubs are last in the NL in batting average (.121) and last in on-base percentage (.192) but are sixth in ERA (2.08). Discounting Carlos Marmol's struggles in Games 1 and 3 the rest of the pitching staff has an ERA of 1.07.