Maddux won't say if 2006 is his final season

Updated: February 18, 2006, 10:03 PM ET
Associated Press

MESA, Ariz. -- Greg Maddux won't say whether this season will be his last, he just wants to concentrate on the basics and enjoy the game.

Starting Pitcher
Chicago Cubs

35 13 15 36 136 4.24

"It's my free-agent year," the 39-year-old Chicago Cubs pitcher said. "Hopefully, we'll win more games than last year. Hopefully, we'll get a shot at the postseason. That's always the goal. Go out there and try to throw 200-plus innings and see what happens after that."

Maddux is beginning his 20th season in the major leagues, hoping not to avoid a repeat of last season.

He went 13-15 with a 4.24 ERA last year -- the first time he failed to win at least 15 games since 1987. His ERA also was the highest since 1987, but he still led the Cubs in innings pitched with 225 and only walked 36.

"You want to lower your ERA, pitch better. It's that simple. Just try to pitch better. Don't make as many mistakes as I made last year," the four-time Cy Young Award winner said. "Hopefully, my stuff will be just as good if not a little bit better than last year."

Maddux began his big-league career with the Cubs in late 1986 and joined the Atlanta Braves as a free agent after the 1992 season. He spent 11 years with the Braves, posting ERAs of 1.56 in 1994 and 1.63 in 1995.

He returned to the Cubs as a free agent, signing before spring training opened in 2004. He won the 300th game of his career that year and led the team in innings pitched with 212 2/3 while winning 16 games.

Maddux, who turns 40 in April, sets the example Cubs manager Dusty Baker wants the rest of his pitchers to follow.

"To me, and he may not like it, but I point to him all the time as the way to be," Baker said. "It's not his personality to accept that, but I single him out, which I don't do that often. I say, 'Hey, this is how you want to go about your business. This is how you want to perform. This is how you want to work on fielding, hitting, bunting, everything.'"

Maddux figures to open the season as the Cubs third starter, behind Carlos Zambrano and Mark Prior, and he'll assume the fourth spot if Kerry Wood recovers from shoulder surgery.

Whatever his slot, Maddux, plans on having a good time.

"It's still fun; I like it," he said. "I looked forward to coming here this morning, and I'll look forward to it again tomorrow. After a while, it might wear off a little bit, but I'm excited to be here. ... I still enjoy coming to the ballpark."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press