The Cubs are well into celebrating the 100th birthday of Wrigley Field -- a storied place which has managed to reach such an age without Jason Hammel ever having made footprints in it.
Missing each other has not been easy. Hammel, 31, is in the ninth season of a career that has seen him pitch 216 games, 97 of them in the National League. But he has never toed the pitching rubber at Wrigley Field.
That will change Wednesday night, when the newest Cub meets up with Pirates lefty Wandy Rodriguez in the middle game of the teams' series.
While waiting for his turn to pitch, Hammel has been making the park's acquaintance.
"I've just been getting a feel for it," he said. "I remember walking down the tunnel to come into the clubhouse the first time, I was confused. I've just been getting my bearings and a comfort level over the last three, four days, and it's been good."
The Pirates, conversely, have already met Hammel, and it wasn't a particularly enjoyable experience. Not signed as a free agent until the Cubs had already opened their Mesa, Ariz., Spring Training camp, the Orioles' 2013 Opening Day starter may not have a history at Wrigley Field, but he has one against the Bucs.
Hammel owns three wins in four starts against the Pirates, including Thursday in Pittsburgh, where he pitched 6 2/3 innings of two-hit ball for the decision, opposing Rodriguez.
Clint Hurdle has an even better knowledge of Hammel: He managed him for two months in 2009, after Colorado acquired him in trade from Tampa Bay and before the Rockies dismissed Hurdle.
"He's gonna be around the zone," Hurdle said. "He changed speeds [in the Pittsburgh game] and kept hitters off balance. We got balls to hit, but didn't. When you miss balls that you shouldn't and a guy's on, he'll usually make you pay, and that's what he did to us."
Pirates: Showing off small-ball smarts
Pirates batting coach Jeff Branson watched proudly as the Bucs manufactured the winning run Tuesday night on three walks and a sacrifice fly.
Neither plate discipline nor situational hitting were trademarks of the 2013 team offense.
"The guys are understanding how to manufacture runs," said Branson, who took over as hitting coach this season after serving in '13 as assistant to Jay Bell, who has moved on to become the Reds' bench coach. "Every at-bat is a team at-bat. They got to the point where it is about the team, not their at-bat.
"They understand what this guy [the pitcher] is trying to do to them and not giving in. They see how the work they put in can help the team do exactly what we did tonight -- we were able to manufacture a run. We can't rely on the pitching staff every night."
Cubs: Kalish finding a home
In his brief Major League career, which was interrupted last season by a serious neck injury, Ryan Kalish has batted everywhere but third in the lineup. Right now, Cubs manager Rick Renteria likes the left-handed hitting outfielder in the two-hole.
"Ryan gives you great at-bats," Renteria said. "I think I could put him anywhere from one through nine, and he would still give you a great at-bat. He works the counts."
Kalish, who starts against right-handed pitchers as part of Renteria's early platoon system, has the most at-bats in the eighth spot in the order. Renteria does like to change things up. For now, Kalish will hit second.
"It's a good spot for him," Renteria said. "He can handle the bat."
• Opposing teams' leadoff batters -- the Cubs' Emilio Bonifacio and the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter -- have combined to go 18-for-31 against the Pirates in the first seven games of the season.
• Starling Marte has a nine-game hitting streak in Wrigley Field and is 16-for-37 across that stretch.