Extra bases

• The Cubs went 25-51 against the tough National League Central last season, which figures to be just as competitive in 2014.

"Two years ago, we were talking about our NL West record -- we were 1-16 and we improved on that last year," Samardzija said Wednesday. "Then we improved on our home record last year.

"We're crossing off boxes," he said, "but we need to do all of them at once, and definitely playing well against our division, which has three top of the line teams with [the Brewers], who rake in their own stadium, we've got some pretty formidable opponents who you play a lot and you get to know them well and they get to know you.

"That's when the little things come into play, and it's just about executing and minimizing mistakes and that's what we need to do against those teams like the Cardinals and Reds. They don't make mistakes."

The Cubs will find out quickly. Twenty-one of their first 30 games are against NL Central teams.

• Olt was 1-for-4 with two RBIs in Wednesday's 14-4 loss to the D-backs, and is now batting .275.

"The way he's been hitting hasn't been like a fluke," Samardzija said of the third baseman. "You watch him hit, he looks comfortable, confident. He swings, and he swings hard. That's what we need, we need guys who come in and know what they're going to hit, not hoping they're going to hit, but know they're going to hit. He's definitely one of those guys. Any one we have here, we're expecting a lot out of."

• Outfielder Justin Ruggiano was scratched from Wednesday's lineup because of a tender left ankle that forced him out of Tuesday's game. Ruggiano said there was some soreness, but the problem would not keep him out of the lineup during the regular season.

• Renteria has a nickname for everybody, calling Chris Rusin "Russy" and Castillo "Welly." What does he call Samardzija?

"I don't speak Spanish," Samardzija said.

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.