The Cubs aren't receiving any favors in the season's early going.
Fresh off taking two of three in Pittsburgh to open the season, the Cubs found Friday's series opener in Atlanta a bit tougher. It seems the games will remain that way for the foreseeable future, as Chicago has started a stretch of 19 games against teams that finished above .500 last year, including 13 contests against teams that made the playoffs last year.
But as the Cubs, behind right-hander Carlos Villanueva, prepare to face the Braves and righty Julio Teheran on Saturday at Turner Field, they're not putting too much stock into 2012's results.
"That was last year's playoff teams," right-hander Matt Garza said. "Things change."
They do, indeed, but Cubs manager Dale Sveum knows the next few weeks likely will be challenging.
"This first month, the schedule we have, and the teams we're playing, it's very important to keep your head above water and then get completely healthy and go from there," he said.
After facing tough lefty Mike Minor on Friday, the Cubs see another talented youngster in Teheran. The 22-year-old is the Braves' top prospect, according to MLB.com, and is coming off an impressive spring in which he put together a 1.04 ERA in six Grapefruit League starts. Teheran closed Spring Training by fanning 10 Astros in six innings.
Cubs: Villanueva set to debut
• Another game, another Cubs debut for a Chicago starting pitcher. On Saturday, Villanueva follows fellow newcomers Edwin Jackson and Scott Feldman in making his first start for the Cubs, a role Villanueva was put into after injuries struck Garza and Scott Baker.
"I'm ready to go. I feel good, I felt good my last couple tuneups in spring," Villanueva said. "It's just a matter of taking what I did in spring into the season. It's not good to put extra pressure on yourself. It's another game for me -- go out there, get the ball and go."
Villanueva has mostly been a reliever in his seven-year career, starting only 56 of his 301 career appearances. He got a chance to start with Milwaukee earlier in his career and said he is hopeful that experience will help.
"I had that opportunity maybe once before, way back in '08, but I didn't know what to do with it. I didn't know really how to prepare," Villanueva said. "This time, I think we had a very good plan from day one in spring. It worked out smoothly. It doesn't always work out like that, but I built up the pitch count, and built up everything to where I am now."
• Shortstop Starlin Castro played in his 200th consecutive game on Friday, the National League's longest active streak and the second-longest in the Majors. Detroit's Prince Fielder tops the list with 346 straight appearances.
Braves: Alternating backstops
• Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez plans to continue to alternate catchers. On Saturday, he'll give Gerald Laird the start to catch Teheran. Evan Gattis started Friday and went 3-for-4.
• Gonzalez also said he'll be lenient when selecting who starts at third base. The Braves have right-handed hitting Chris Johnson and left-handed hitting Juan Francisco as options.
• Jackson (Wednesday), Feldman (Friday) and Villanueva's (Saturday) starts mark the first time in 64 years that the Cubs will see three starting pitchers make their club debuts in the season's first five games. The last time that happened was in 1949, when Dutch Leonard (Game 1), Monk Dubiel (Game 3) and Dewey Adkins (Game 5) each debuted for the North Siders.