From’s Carrie Muskat :

The Cubs pitching staff also returns nearly intact. The 2006 rotation will consist of Prior, Greg Maddux, Carlos Zambrano and Wood if healthy from arthroscopic shoulder surgery. Young relievers like Roberto Novoa, Michael Wuertz and Will Ohman also shined.

“Obviously, we need to be healthy,” Larry Rothschild said. “We seem to have a handle on Mark Prior and health issues there. Carlos stayed healthy, and he pitched a lot of innings and threw a lot of pitches. We have to bring Kerry back from the injury.

“With Greg, I think you saw in the second half of the year there’s a lot of upside for him,” Rothschild said. “He’s not at the height of his career but there’s still a lot of good games for him to pitch. We talked at the end of the year about certain things he could do to return to what he’s done in the past.”

Replies Ben Schwartz,

Getting his coaching staff back was a big deal to Dusty during the season, so I’m guessing he’s happy now with the entire brain trust getting an extension.

Where I’m laughing is Rothschild’s claim to “have a handle on Mark Prior and health issues there.” Little late to announce that in October. That staff has major engine trouble EVERY year. For sentimental reasons, I am happy to see Maddux back for another year, but with the same coaches and with only middle relief looking a better, why will 2006 be any different?

I knew Oswalt would do well at Busch, but I still think the Cards will win. (assuming Reggie Sanders comes back).

Shame Sanders can’t get some lessons from Jim Edmonds on how to time the diving properly. Edmonds squandered a couple of chances with runners on 1st and 2nd in both the 5th and 7th, and it’s hard to imagine he’ll be that quiet for the entire series. Houston’s Brad Lidge continues to look as unhittable as any closer this side of Mariano Rivera (at Mo’s peak) — who would’ve guessed how Octavio Dotel’s dispatch to Oakland in the summer of ’04 would impact the balance of power in the National League?

Nice to see that Jason Marquis was totally focused on the opposition heading into Game 2. Granted, Marquis probably didn’t just come out and volunteer that he was annoyed at being sent to the ‘pen, but even those with short memories can recall Tony La Russa threatening to stomp on Steve Kline’s neck.