When injuries opened up a starting spot last season for Cubs left-hander Travis Wood, he impressed enough to earn a place in Chicago's 2013 rotation.
On Saturday, he will take the mound in Miami opposite Marlins righty Alex Sanabia, who is hoping to carve out a similar path this season. With the Marlins' rotation decimated by injuries to start the season, Sanabia is off to a 2-2 start with a somewhat misleading 5.09 ERA.
"He's done a nice job. Obviously, he's a guy who has benefited from a couple of injuries," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "He's made the most of it. He's pitched well. He picked up our first win of the season, and every time he's been out there, he's shown a lot."
Sanabia's ERA took a hit in his outing Sunday against the Reds, though Redmond hardly blamed the young righty for allowing five runs over six-plus innings. With the bullpen taxed a night earlier, the Marlins leaned heavily on Sanabia, who conceded just two runs through six innings before loading the bases in the seventh and departing without recording an out in the frame.
"Even in his last start, he knew we were short in the bullpen, and he made his pitches, he executed his pitches," Redmond said. "He did a great job. He deserved a chance to win that game, but we weren't able to hold them down. But I like his toughness, too. That's what we're looking for out of our starting pitchers."
As for Wood, the 26-year-old is off to a strong start this season, though he has just one win to show for his four quality starts.
Wood's lone win came in a stellar season debut in which he allowed just one hit over six shutout innings. In three starts since, Wood has pitched at least six innings and limited the opposition to two earned runs in each, though he's taken one loss and two no-decisions in those outings.
"It's hard to be down," Wood said after taking a no-decision in the Cubs' 5-4 extra-inning loss on Monday. "It's easy to be down, but also hard to be down. It's not like we're getting blown out every game. We're right there. We just have to come together as a team and figure out how to pull them out."
The good news for Wood is the Cubs seemed to have figured it out in the first two games of this series, managing back-to-back wins for the first time this year. Chicago, which entered the series 4-8 in games decided by two runs or fewer, has won the first two games of the series by a combined three runs.
Cubs: Fujikawa throws first bullpen session
Closer Kyuji Fujikawa tossed his first bullpen session Friday since landing on the disabled list on April 13 with a strained right forearm.
Fujikawa threw 25 pitches on flat ground and will ramp it up to 30-35 pitches in another 'pen session on Monday. If all goes well, Fujikawa will likely make two rehab appearances before returning to the Cubs.
"We haven't talked about it, but I'm sure it'll be two appearances," manager Dale Sveum said. "We don't want to keep him down and give him back-to-back appearances, something like that."
Fujikawa, who was dealing with discomfort for several days leading up to his DL stint, has converted two of his three save opportunities this season, despite a 12.46 ERA.
Marlins: Hechavarria still on pace with rehab
Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, on the disabled list with a bruised right forearm, played catch in the outfield prior to Friday's game and remains on track in his rehab process.
Assuming there are no setbacks, the Marlins are confident Hechavarria will be able to return to the field on May 2, the first day he is eligible to come off the DL. The 24-year-old was hitting .184 with one homer and three RBIs prior to being sidelined with the injury.
"Things are progressing for him," Redmond said. "He did some more throwing [Friday]. He's on track to be available on May 2, which is obviously a good sign. It's relatively a short-term thing for him."
• Giancarlo Stanton has a seven-game hitting streak against the Cubs, dating back to July 16, 2011. He's hitting .345 (10-for-29) with two home runs and six RBIs against Chicago during that span.
• Wood is 0-2 with a 16.88 ERA in two career starts against the Marlins, though the only active players on Miami's roster to record a hit off the lefty are Austin Kearns (2-for-5) and Placido Polanco (1-for-3).
• Marlins rookie first baseman Joe Mahoney hit his first Major League home run on Friday in his 27th career at-bat.