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Despite slow start, Cubs convinced they’re playing better

Published: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 11:11 a.m. CDT

CINCINNATI (MCT) — When a team starts out as poorly as the Cubs did during their 3-11 stretch the first two weeks, it’s easy to go into games expecting the worst.

The Cubs knew most people expected them to be a bust this season, and the bad start only reinforced that feeling.

While they’re still not close to being respectable with an 8-15 record after Tuesday night’s game with the Reds in Cincinnati was postponed, the feeling in the clubhouse isn’t as bleak as some might imagine.

Manager Dale Sveum has managed to keep the confidence up as the Cubs try to find a way to blend youth and experience.

“So far it has been good,” Alfonso Soriano said. “The record has not been good, but we’re working hard and when we put everything together, we’re going to be a very good team.

“We’ve played good defense, we have a good starting rotation. ... If we stay healthy we’re going to surprise people. We’re playing a lot better lately.”

Tuesday’s game was postponed after a 2 hour, 13 minute rain delay. No makeup date was announced.

The Jeff Samardzija-Bronson Arroyo matchup will be moved to Wednesday, with Paul Maholm now pitching Friday against the Dodgers so Ryan Dempster can return Thursday, as was scheduled.

The Cubs still have many questions to be answered after a month of games. They have too many veterans to consider themselves a rebuilding team, and probably have too many kids to truly contend, even in the weak National League Central.

But the team concept is more in evidence than several recent editions, with many older players mentoring the younger ones and everyone getting along.

“It’s a good mix of both,” Dempster said. “The youth brings energy and it brings excitement, and it brings hard work. The veteran guys also bring the hard work and the experience. Hopefully we’re able to calm guys down in certain situations and things like that.

“We’re starting to play better, so we need to build off that and never be content.”

The saving grace has been the improved pitching. The Cubs have a 2.81 ERA over their last nine games, giving them a chance to compete. Matt Garza’s dominance is one of the main reasons players are confident they can shake off April’s inconsistencies.

“The mood is great,” Joe Mather said. “Everyone feels confident when he goes out on the mound, and Samardzija, too. Those guys have given us a chance to win every single time. When ‘Demp’ comes back (Thursday) we have three guys we feel really confident about, and Paulie (Maholm) and (Chris) Volstad are going to come up with their wins, too.”

The team will be undergoing changes, as evidenced by the trade of Marlon Byrd. But the veterans are enjoying watching the kids learn their way in the majors.

“We have a lot of moving pieces, but I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Garza said. “We have a lot of youth, a lot of growing up. Like I said in spring, it’s going to be a lot of fun with a bunch of young guys.”

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