No. 5 Maholm has looked like a No. 1

MESA, Ariz. -- Not a bad day when your fifth starter performs more like an ace.

Chicago Cubs starter Paul Maholm's excellent spring continued Monday when he pitched five scoreless innings for the against the San Diego Padres, giving up four hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

“I was working on a few different things that we are trying to implement and gave up a few hits, but they were good pitches,” Maholm said. “The main thing was getting out there, getting through five, to the 70-pitch mark, and for the most part I worked ahead.”

In four starts this spring, the Cubs left-hander has given up just one earned run, good for a 0.90 ERA.

Maholm will occupy the No. 5 spot in the Cubs rotation, but the decision to have him bring up the rear on the starting staff wasn’t performance-based.

He was down for the count for three days early in camp with a flu virus and since the coaching staff eased him back into action, they wanted him to get as much preparation as possible before making his season debut.

“You’re never going to hear me complain about being one of the five guys,” Maholm said. “I’ll take the ball every fifth day and expect to win that day. I expect [Ryan] Dempster and [Matt] Garza and the rest of the guys [would say] the same thing. I will get matched up against some No. 1s and some No. 5s. The day you pitch, you’re the No. 1 guy.”

Maholm, who had a 3.66 ERA over 26 starts last season at Pittsburgh, will make his season debut in the second series of the season at home against the Milwaukee Brewers.