NEW YORK -- Scott Feldman looked like a rental from the moment he signed a one-year, $6 million deal last November. Nothing personal, it's just business for the Cubs.
It took only six minutes into his introductory conference call with the Chicago media before Feldman was asked about the possibility of being flipped at the trade deadline. No one pretended he would be part of "The Core."
Feldman knows it's coming again, but he's not looking for the exits. He did it all during Saturday's 5-2 win over the New York Mets, throwing seven strong innings and notching two RBI in front of 27,004 fans at Citi Field.
"Absolutely, I'd love to (stick around)," Feldman said. "That kind of stuff always happens this time of year with a number of players. I've never really been in that position before. But I hope we can get hot and get back in this thing a little bit, and then it will be harder to trade away some of the guys.
"But either way, I love it in Chicago, and it's an honor to put a Cubs uniform on."
The Cubs are 28-38, and everyone expects them to be sellers. It will be a chance to address the organization's biggest weakness.
Whether it's been signing Feldman (6-5, 3.05 ERA), trading for Travis Wood (5-5, 2.65 ERA) or cashing in free agent Paul Maholm for prospect Arodys Vizcaino at last year's trade deadline, general manager Jed Hoyer made this point: "We've been able to find pitching in different ways."
Saturday, Feldman limited the Mets to one run on two hits while striking out six and walking just one. Dale Sveum has noticed a harder cutter that appears to move a few more inches. The manager appreciates how Feldman attacks hitters' weaknesses and sticks to the gameplan, pitching down and away and staying away from slugging percentage.
"It's just been a welcoming place," Feldman said. "I didn't get off to the best start in spring training and they stuck with me and let me try to work out of it. That was a big thing, just trying to get an opportunity to pitch every five days."
Feldman had spent his entire career in the American League with the Texas Rangers and has enjoyed hitting for himself (eight RBI this season). Sveum had even mentioned the possibility of using him as a pinch-hitter this weekend.
"I might be like fourth or fifth on the depth chart with that," Feldman said with a laugh. "Maybe pinch-runner."
Feldman knocked a two-out, two-run single into center field in the fourth inning and then went first-to-third on Darwin Barney's single into right field. He couldn't remember the last time he slid headfirst.
"Probably college," he said. "I still had pretty good form, though, right?"
Feldman won 17 games for the Rangers in 2009 and started Opening Day the next year. But he missed part of the 2010 and 2011 seasons with a right knee injury, and the last thing the Cubs want to see is another one.
"In his case, we're probably better off that he (dove headfirst) because of his knee," Sveum said. "You don't really want him sliding. I was cringing like: 'Why are you going to third? You're a starting pitcher. You've got a bad knee.' That's what I was thinking as he was running."
It's one thing to beat up on the Mets (24-39) and another to think about the timeline for when the Cubs can seriously compete in the National League Central. The St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates woke up on Saturday with the three best records in the league, each one playing around .600 ball.
Hoyer said remove the Cardinals from the equation for the moment "because you know they're a great organization that never seems to have a downturn" and look at the rest of the division.
"Baseball's a cyclical sport," Hoyer said. "When the Cubs were trying to win in '07 and '08, the Pirates and the Brewers and the Reds were rebuilding and all those guys (are) now coming to fruition.
"Those teams have built up nice cores. When it comes to the Reds and the Cardinals, they're really mature, good teams right now. The Pirates have built a nice team, and they have a lot of good stuff coming. No one ever said it was going to be (easy or) our process was going to come without competition."
The Cubs recently used 19 of their 40 picks in the draft on pitchers, passing on University of Oklahoma flamethrower Jonathan Gray and using the No. 2 overall choice on University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant, knowing the odds say they'll hit on some of those arms.
The Cubs are going to need more, which is why Feldman could wind up pitching in a pennant race this summer.