The Pirates won none of the six games Ross Ohlendorf started this spring -- losing five -- and his longest outing was just 4 2/3 innings. In Sunday's start against the Cubs, Ohlendorf will try to right the ship and deliver a rubber-match win in the three-game series.
"I feel really good with where I am right now," Ohlendorf said. "[Pitching coach Ray Searage] and I worked on some things the last week or so that I think are really going to help. Also, my arm feels good, and that's very important at this point."
Ohlendorf's health is not to be overlooked. He made just one start last April before landing on the disabled list with back spasms, and he missed the final month of the season with shoulder soreness in his right throwing arm.
As for his mechanics, Ohlendorf said he's made improvements.
"Having better direction toward home plate -- driving more toward home plate," he said. "I was getting rotational, which I have done in the past. It was something I worked on last year that I thought really helped."
For Chicago, Matt Garza gets not only his first outing in a Cubs uniform, but his first against the Pirates and his first at Wrigley Field. He said he doesn't plan on checking the flags on top of the scoreboard to see if the wind favors the pitchers or not -- he thinks it'll be pretty intuitive how the ballpark's playing.
"I'll stand on the mound and if I'm falling forward, it's blowing in," Garza said. "And if I'm falling back, it's blowing out. I don't need to look at the flags."
Coming off a second consecutive season in which he tossed 200-plus innings with a sub-4.00 ERA, Garza, too, had a rough spring: a 1-4 record and a 10.38 ERA.
Whether he still has kinks to work out or not, Garza is in for a thrill playing at historic Wrigley. Teammate Carlos Pena, who also played with Garza as a member of the Rays, couldn't think more highly of the landmark.
"This place is unbelievable," Pena said. "I've enjoyed just driving up to Wrigley every day for three days. I look to my right and see the lake and can only imagine how it is when all the trees blossom and summer comes around. It's just a beautiful place to be, great energy, good atmosphere.
"To play baseball at Wrigley Field, I can't express what it meant to me to come here the first day, even driving outside. I looked at the field from the outside and I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, this is ridiculous.' I was like a kid. I could say, 'I'm a Major League Baseball player and I'm too cool for that' -- no, I'm not. I was thrilled when I walked up that concourse."
Pirates: McCutchen plays Chicago tough
Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen has reached base safely in his last 18 games against the Cubs, including Saturday's 5-3 Cubs win, when he went 0-for-3 with a walk. In those games, he's 27-for-66 with four doubles, three triples, two homers, 12 RBIs, 13 walks and six steals.
Not exactly known as road warriors, the Pirates are actually 8-5 in their last 13 games at Wrigley Field, stretching to 2009. Pittsburgh went 17-64 away from PNC Park last season and had winning records at just two visiting ballparks: Wrigley (5-4) and Coors Field (2-1).
Cubs: Winning words
Before Saturday's game, the Cubs had some motivational words greet them on the clubhouse message board.
"You can't see the rising sun if your eyes are fixed on the setting one," it read. "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it's called present. Conquer the now."
It's not known who wrote the message, and it definitely wasn't Cubs manager Mike Quade.
"The yin and the yang?" Quade said. "These guys are way beyond smarts for me -- just go play," Quade said. "I talk way too much, but I'm not that philosophical. Just figure out a way to beat the Pirates."
Chicago shortstop Starlin Castro has it in for the rest of the division. Against National League Central opponents, Castro's a lifetime .314 hitter (71-for-226) hitter in 60 games.
Had the Pirates won Saturday in a game they led until the eighth inning, they might have had a good chance to start 3-0. The last time Pittsburgh began the season with two straight road wins was in 2007, against the Astros, in what turned into a sweep.
Cubs reliever Sean Marshall attended Virginia Commonwealth University, one of the four semi-finalists in the NCAA men's basketball tournament, from 2001-03.