05/02/06 8:45 PM ET
Maddux named NL Pitcher of the Month
Cubs veteran went 5-0 with a 1.35 ERA in five starts in April
By Dawn Klemish / MLB.com
"You don't have to win to have fun playing this game, but it definitely helps," Maddux said Friday. "It's 100 times easier to have fun when you're winning."
Then, the Cubs righty, who turned 40 this month, certainly must be living it up after going 5-0 in his first five starts for the first time in a storied 21-year career. His efforts, including a 1.35 ERA over 33 1/3 innings, earned him National League Player of the Month honors for April.
"It's always nice to have a good month, it really is," Maddux said Tuesday. "I'm very honored to still be pitching, let alone get something like that. It's a good start, and I'll try to win [Wednesday]. That's it.
"You give yourself a quick pat on the back and get ready for the next game."
Until April 23, the four-time Cy Young winner was the only Cubs starter to last seven innings in a game. Maddux's smoking start has come at an especially good time for a struggling Chicago team that is without the services of its former No. 1 and 2 starters, as Mark Prior and Kerry Wood are both on the 15-day disabled list.
"The guy is a special player," said Cardinals starter Jason Marquis, Maddux's teammate in Atlanta. "He knows what he's doing out there. He's been baffling hitters for a long time, so it's not surprising to see what he's doing."
Aside from his best career start to a season, Maddux also moved up the wins chart on April 29 to 15th all-time with his 323rd victory. He hasn't allowed more than two runs in any appearance this year, and he will get a chance to tie Hall of Famers Don Sutton and Nolan Ryan for 13th place on Wednesday.
The future Hall of Famer baffles even the young stars, such as Brewers NL Rookie of the Month Prince Fielder, who got caught looking at a bases-loaded third strike during a 6-2 loss to the Cubs on Friday.
"His ball looks like it's right there, and then it's not there anymore," Fielder said.
Maddux is cautious about what the rest of the season might bring, and he played off his recent success to catching a few breaks. That didn't stop Cubs manager Dusty Baker from speculating that big things might be in store.
"There's good years and bad years -- there's great years and good years," Baker said. "This might be one of the great years. ... I don't know anybody who stayed on top and excellent every year in their career, but he's done a pretty good job of it."
It was the 10th such award Maddux has received, and his first since July 2001. Others receiving votes for the award were the Mets' Pedro Martinez (5-0, 2.94 ERA, 33 strikeouts), Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo (4-0, 2.34 ERA, 30 strikeouts), Houston's Wandy Rodriguez (4-0, 2.53 ERA, 21 strikeouts) and Arizona's Brandon Webb (4-0, 2.22 ERA, 25 strikeouts).
Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.