CHICAGO -- With first month of the regular season in the books and 26 games completed, now's the time when players can begin to settle in and feel comfortable as they prepare for the long season ahead.
The same can be said for managers, especially those in their first year, like the Cubs' Dale Sveum.
Sveum, who was hired in November, said he feels much more comfortable in his role now than when the season started.
"Yeah, I think no question," Sveum said. "No matter what you do in this game -- coaching and all that -- you still have to get in somewhat of a rhythm as manager, too, even though you feel like it's where you want to be."
"Like a player, Spring Training is what it is. It's not the regular season, when you have to make moves and keep up with the whole game, especially after the fifth inning. There's no doubt I'm a lot more comfortable than I was a month ago.
Wood up from Minors to take Garza's start
CHICAGO -- Left-hander Travis Wood will start for the Cubs against the Dodgers on Sunday in place of right-hander Matt Garza, who is battling the flu, manager Dale Sveum announced after Saturday's 5-1 loss.
Wood, who will be making his Cubs debut after being acquired in an offseason trade with the Reds, will be added to the active roster on Sunday morning. A corresponding move will also come at that time, Sveum said.
Garza had already been scratched from his original start, on Saturday, because of a flu virus that has been making its way through the Cubs clubhouse. Sveum said the Cubs will skip Garza's turn in the rotation, with the right-hander tentatively slated to start the series opener in Milwaukee on May 11.
Wood, who arrived at Wrigley Field prior to Saturday's game, said he's felt good at Triple-A Iowa, where he was 1-3 with a 5.08 ERA in five starts. He also said he's straightened out the issues that plagued him during Spring Training, when he allowed 17 earned runs in 14 1/3 innings.
"I fell better," Wood said. "I'm more relaxed; pitches are working. I'm able to command the fastball, and my offspeed [pitches] are working. Everything's feeling good right now."
Wood's future with the Cubs could be longer than just one spot start. After removing Carlos Marmol from the closer role on Friday, Sveum said left-handed reliever James Russell and righty Rafael Dolis would be his go-to relievers in the ninth inning. Russell is the only lefty in the Cubs bullpen, which could cause matchup problems if the club needs a big out against a left-handed batter early in a game.
Sveum said before the game that the lack of an extra lefty in the bullpen had nothing to do with the decision to start Wood on Sunday, and while Wood said the start is a chance for him to show what he can do, he's simply looking to pitch well and give the Cubs a chance to win.
"Most of all, big game tomorrow," Wood said. "We win, we take the series. So hopefully I can go out there and give them a strong outing, and hopefully we win it."
LaHair earns Sveum's trust against lefty
CHICAGO -- Bryan LaHair has been on such a roll that Cubs manager Dale Sveum decided to start the left-handed-hitting first baseman against Dodgers left-hander Chris Capuano on Saturday.
LaHair entered Saturday riding a 10-game hitting streak and had reached base safely in a team-high 22 straight games. That stretch gave Sveum confidence to start LaHair against Capuano despite having sat the first baseman the previous two times the Cubs faced a left-handed pitcher, on April 23 against St. Louis' Jaime Garcia and April 18 against Miami's Mark Buehrle.
Sveum said that LaHair has proven he's an everyday player, regardless of what arm the opposing pitcher throws with.
"As much as anything, he's been swinging the bat well," Sveum said. "All of his at-bats -- even against lefties -- even though there might not be a result, are quality at-bats."
Sveum said that Capuano's numbers also played a part in the decision. The Dodgers lefty entered Saturday having held right-handed batters to a .188 average, while left-handed batters were hitting .318 against him.
Sveum gets an edge from defensive metrics
CHICAGO -- When Dodgers outfielder Bobby Abreu hit a line drive to right-center field off Cubs closer Rafael Dolis with two outs in the top of the ninth inning on Friday, Abreu thought he had tied the game.
Instead, Cubs right fielder David DeJesus -- shading Abreu toward the gap -- ranged to his right and caught the ball for the third out to secure the Cubs' 5-4 win over the Dodgers.
Like most Major League teams, the Cubs had watched enough video and put together enough spray charts to feel fairly confident in their defensive positioning. Although even a dead pull hitter sometimes goes the opposite way, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said he's comfortable playing what he calls "the 90 percent rule."
"The guy's going to hit the ball there 90 percent of the time; we'll play there," Sveum said. "And sometimes you might get beat by the 10 percent rule, but in the long run, you're going to save a lot of outs, save a lot of pitches. It's a luxury you have now because of video and spray charts and everything like that."
Sveum said that infielder Jeff Baker was unavailable on Saturday after coming down with the same flu virus that has sidelined Garza.
"He's almost getting sicker," Sveum said. "He's not getting better, that's for sure."
Sveum said that backup catcher Welington Castillo will probably start Sunday's series finale, giving Geovany Soto a day off.
Despite pitching four of the last five days, Dolis would "probably be OK" to pitch on Saturday if called upon, Sveum said.
The Cubs entered Saturday with at least 10 hits in each of their last three games, their longest stretch since a four-game streak from Aug. 12-15, 2011.