PITTSBURGH -- It's crunch time for the Cubs over the next 19 games. Starting Friday against the Braves, the Cubs begin a stretch of consecutive games against teams that finished above .500 last season, including 13 against 2012 playoff teams.
"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."
Villanueva, who will make his Cubs debut Saturday against the Braves, said manager Dale Sveum stresses the need to prepare every day as if it's Game 7 of the World Series. That's the approach the right-hander takes.
"My start day is the day to go out and have fun," Villanueva said. "The other four days, I'm bored out of my mind. That's all I'm looking for is giving the team a chance to hang around, score some runs and win a ballgame."
Feldman eager to get first Cubs start under his belt
PITTSBURGH -- 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 right-hander has never pitched at Turner Field. At least, the forecast calls for temperatures more tolerable than the 26 degrees the Cubs had Wednesday night.
"I've never really been in [cold] weather like this in my life," said Feldman, who has played for the Rangers and grew up in California.
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."
Sveum doesn't want NL to adopt DH rule
PITTSBURGH -- As far as Cubs manager Dale 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 AL teams are at a disadvantage in NL 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."
Pitcher Jeff Samardzija hit two home runs in Spring Training. Maybe he could DH?
The Cubs do have some prospects who, if the NL did adopt the DH, could handle that role. First baseman Dan Vogelbach comes to mind.
"Those kind of guys are primed for that spot if it does happen," Sveum said. "Those are advantages and disadvantages, too. You produce some pretty good hitters in the Minor Leagues and sometimes you have to trade them off because of their positions. You draft guys who might be really good hitters, and might not have a spot for them. Vogelbach is a good example. You might not have a spot, but you would if you had a DH. That's a guy you drafted high and can keep him in the organization as a hitter [if the NL had a DH]."
Garza throws off mound for first time since February
PITTSBURGH -- Cubs pitcher Matt Garza threw 25 pitches in Mesa, Ariz., on Thursday, the first time he's thrown off the mound since he ended a live batting practice session on Feb. 17.
Garza, who has been sidelined since that February workout with a strained left lat, was scheduled to join the Cubs in Atlanta this weekend to be re-evaluated. The right-hander is on the disabled list, and not expected to return until May.
If he passes all the tests, Garza will have another bullpen session on Sunday.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.