Feldman thrives at plate, but focused more on mound

Feldman thrives at plate, but focused more on mound

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Scott Feldman's hitting has been pretty good this spring. That's not a high priority, though, for the Cubs right-hander.

On Thursday, Feldman gave up four runs on seven hits over five innings in the Cubs' 5-4 loss to the Dodgers. His Cactus League ERA went from 11.81 to 10.34.

The right-hander admits he still has work to do, and he will have some time. Feldman is slotted into the No. 4 spot in the rotation, and he will open the Cubs' series in Atlanta on April 5.

"I feel pretty good with three out of four of my pitches, but the changeup is one I haven't thrown enough in spring, and the ones I have thrown, they're not game ready," Feldman said. "It's something I need to hammer out the last 10 days or however long I have to pitch. It's something I have to work on a lot and get it straightened out."

It's tough to gauge pitchers in Arizona because the dry air makes it difficult to get a good grip on their breaking pitches. But with Matt Garza and Scott Baker sidelined because of injuries for the start of the season, Feldman becomes a key piece in the Cubs' rotation.

He is making the transition from the American League to the National League at the plate. With two on and none out in the fifth, Feldman lined a single to left center, perfectly timed as the shortstop was shifting to cover second base. The first person Feldman looked for in the dugout? Assistant hitting coach Rob Deer, who talked to the pitcher during batting practice.

"He tried to take credit for that hit," Feldman said of Deer. "He told me, 'If you get a hit today, I better be the first one you look at when you're standing at first.'"

Feldman is now 2-for-4 at the plate with one RBI. Did Deer say anything helpful?

"He's Rob Deer," Feldman said. "He's a better hitter than I am. I'll listen to it."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.