MESA, Ariz. -- If Chris Volstad has a good season, give former Cubs pitcher Rick Sutcliffe credit for steering the 6-foot-8 right-hander in the right direction.
Sutcliffe, an extra instructor this spring, has helped Volstad with his grip as well as his approach to pitching.
"A lot of it's just attitude, but [we've worked on] a couple pitches, also," Volstad said of his sessions with Sutcliffe. "Nothing new, but how to use different things and let guys know it's the pitcher's plate and stuff like that. We've been working on things and talking. It's been a big help."
Volstad, acquired from the Marlins for Carlos Zambrano, will make his Cubs debut Thursday when he faces the Mariners at HoHoKam Park. He's competing for one of the two openings in the rotation, but he knows all about that.
"Luckily, with the Marlins, I was kind of used to that with a lot of pitchers coming into camp," Volstad said. "I try not to look into that or worry too much about that because it doesn't really matter -- I still need to go out and perform. I'm just working on those things in the bullpen, and when my day comes, I want to go out there and show who I really am and the pitcher who I can be. That's really all I focus on.
"You start worrying about or focus on too many different things at one time and it distracts you," he said. "I'm just trying to keep it simple and worry about doing my job when I'm out there."
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said it's been tough for Volstad because he's had to learn on the job in the big leagues. He was drafted in 2005 and made his big league debut in '08.
"He needs to learn what he can do and get quicker outs with the movement he has on his fastball and the length he has through the strike zone with his height," Sveum said. "[He has to learn] more pitch sequences, understanding how to move the ball inside a lot more with his fastball and movement. He had a game against [the Brewers] last year and a pretty decent lineup and he went right through them pretty easy by pitching inside and broke a lot of bats and did a great job."
On Sept. 23, Volstad gave up one run on six hits over seven innings against the Brewers and did not get a decision.
Sveum has seen Sutcliffe help other pitchers, and Volstad has definitely benefited.
"There's a select few guys he's taken under his wing," Sveum said of Sutcliffe. "He can relate to big tall guys. Sut didn't have the movement that Volstad has, but just getting him to understand pitch sequences and how to get big league hitters out is his big thing. Travis Wood, too. They both got to the big leagues and didn't pitch a ton of innings in the Minor Leagues and now you have to understand how to get big league hitters out."