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Article Teaser: Winning only 66 games last season, not many analysts and scouts were happy with what they saw from the Chicago Cubs last season. While they did have a better than average offensive team in 2006, the pitching staff was a huge question mark. However, with the recent additions of Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis on the team's starting rotation and Lou Piniella behind the bench, the boys at Wrigley may in fact be the sleeper team in the NL Central.

Keep reading below...

Chicago Cubs Pitching Staff The Key To The Success For The 2007 Season

Copyright (c) 2007-2017

Winning only 66 games last season, not many analysts and scouts were happy with what they saw from the Chicago Cubs last season. While they did have a better than average offensive team in 2006, the pitching staff was a huge question mark. However, with the recent additions of Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis on the team's starting rotation and Lou Piniella behind the bench, the boys at Wrigley may in fact be the sleeper team in the NL Central.

Battling both injuries and ineffectiveness all of last season, the Cubs pitching staff was forced to use 15 different starting pitchers and as a result, only the crown jewel of the staff, the vibrant workhorse Carlos Zambrano, was able to throw more than 200 innings.

Knowing that pitching will play a key role in the team's success, Cubs reliever Scott Eyre loves what he sees from Piniella so far and feels that the change of attitude will benefit the entire staff.

"He wants people to say, 'I don't want to play the Cubs this weekend' and not just because we have a good team, but because of the way we carry ourselves," Eyre told MLB.com. "He wants you to walk around and think you're good. He wants you to believe you're good and not just think it, but know you're good."

Helping change the motif around the Cubs pitching situation are both Lilly and Marquis, who bring both winning career records and post-season experience to a Chicago staff that desperately needs it. Starting 32 games last year for the Blue Jays and a minimum of 25 over the past four seasons, Lilly has proven in his career to be a potent starting pitcher and should provide the Cubs with plenty of support for Zambrano.

Coming off of a rough season last year, where he went 14-16 with a 6.02 ERA, Marquis looks primed for a solid comeback season with the Cubs in 2007. Like Lilly, Marquis is another guy that has proved he can pitch a ton of innings, throwing at least 190 over the past three seasons with the Cardinals. As well, Marquis is a pitcher that thrives on contact and with the slick fielding Cesar Izturis at shortstop, the 28-year-old New York native's ERA should go back down to somewhere near the 4.50 range.

While it's obvious that the success of both Lilly and Marquis will be crucial in determining the Cubs success this season, both young upstart Rich Hill and journeyman Wade Miller, who will be the team's fourth and fifth starters, will also be responsible for carrying the load if Chicago wants to reach the postseason.

Beating out Mark Prior for the last rotation spot, Miller is hoping to regain the form that saw him win in double-digits from 2001-2003 with the Houston Astros. Exhilarated at the thought of being a part of the rotation this season, Miller is ready to prove the critics wrong and show the world he can still pitch.

"It's nice to be able to help the team right away," Miller told MLB.com. "I'm not going to be happy until it's all said and done at the end of the season. I am looking forward to it. I'm ready to get the ball rolling."

Away from the starting rotation, the Cubs bullpen looks a little stronger than last year, with Neal Cotts coming to Wrigley after a few seasons with the White Sox. Cotts arrival, alongside Michael Wuertz, Bob Howry, Will Ohman, Scott Williamson and Eyre, who all had solid seasons last year with Chicago, in spite of being flooded with work due to injuries to the rotation, will give the Cubs plenty of options in the pen.

However, despite the solid bullpen the Cubs will have this season, if former starter Kerry Wood can make a successful transition to the pen, Chicago may have the talent to make things very interesting in the NL Central. Starting the season on 15-day disabled list, Wood knows that he has a tough road ahead of him, but understands that he may in fact be the x-factor in the team's pitching attack.

"This whole spring has been kind of bittersweet," Wood told MLB.com. "I came into camp and felt great. I had the rib thing [when he fell out of his hot tub]. That didn't concern me -- I knew I'd be fine, and I was throwing the ball great. The tricep thing came out of nowhere. It's tricky. It's a pain in the [rear]. I can't give up now."

With the addition of Alfonso Soriano, Cliff Floyd and Mark De La Rosa on offense and a healthy starting rotation, the Cubs don't look like they'll be giving up any time soon.


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