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Chicago Corners Market on Pitching Awards

By Benjy Lipsman in News on May 3, 2006 2:09AM

Throughout Spring Training, the discussions concerning our two baseball teams' pitching staffs took decidedly differing tones. While Sox fans relished a rotation that was likely the best in baseball with 5 pitchers capable of winning 15 games, Cubs fans worried themselves with the health of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, and a rotation anchored by a rapidly fading legend.

Things haven't gone exactly as most expected. Sure, the White Sox rotation has been extremely solid, allowing the World Champs to again climb atop the standings in the American League. Leading the way again, as he did during the second half of last season, was Jose Contreras. He picked up where he left off after last season, going 4-0 in April with a 1.45 ERA. That runs his regular-season win streak to 12 games. For that, he won himself the AL Pitcher of the Month award.

But what has surprised many is that the NL's award is also headed to Chicago. The Cubs' Greg Maddux seems to have bathed in some fountain of youth during the off-season. Coming off his first campaign in which he failed to win at least 15 games, going all the way back to Reagan presidency, Maddux has looked like the Maddux of his prime. He went 5-0 in April, with an ERA that climbed to 1.35 after letting (gasp!) 2 runs score in his final start of the month. In fact, it's the first time in his illustrious career that Maddux has opened a season with 5 straight wins. He's given the Cubs the anchor in their rotation that they've needed, with Wood and Prior out and Carlos Zambrano not pitching well. Maddux is the single biggest factor to the Cubs good start, keeping them in the hunt while their bigger names rehab.