CINCINNATI Ryan Dempster understands what its like to walk off the mound alone, knowing that you cost your team the game.
Dempster did this job before, so he wasnt going to point fingers at Cubs closer Carlos Marmol after Thursdays 4-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds in 10 innings.
Dempsters eight scoreless at Great American Ball Park were ruined by Marmols meltdown in the ninth.
I know hes really struggling to find the strike zone and get where he needs to be, Dempster said. Hell get there. You just got to keep working hard and you got to push through it.
You got one of two ways to go: You can either back down and be afraid of the challenge, or you can take the challenge head-on. Hopefully, he does that.
On his 35th birthday, Dempster came off the disabled list and showed no signs of a quad injury and reminded everyone that he still has something left.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this was the first time in major-league history that two starting pitchers faced off on their birthday (Homer Bailey turned 26).
Dempster refuses to think in these terms, at least publicly. One of the most accessible players on the team doesnt want to hear about his age or contract status.
Dempster has tunnel vision, never looking beyond his next start. His timeline is always five days out.
Its fun, man, Dempster said. I feel really good out there. I just want to keep trying to do my job the best I can and give us a chance to win. Ill hopefully have more games like today. Thats all Im trying to do.
Dempster is making 14 million, has no-trade rights and can become a free agent at seasons end. He has a 0.95 ERA through four starts, and zero wins.
Itll come, he said.
Dempster has a kids enthusiasm for games, watching his friend Danny Briere and the Philadelphia Flyers practice last weekend in the middle of the NHL playoffs.
Dempster is generous with time and information, inviting younger pitchers to train with him in Arizona during the offseason. They say hes difficult to keep up with, showing them what it takes to stick at this level.
But Dempster said he had no plans to approach Marmol once the team got back to Chicago. He did offer another vote of confidence for the embattled closer.
I know how that goes, Dempster said. If he wants advice, Ill give him the best (advice) I can.
You just got to keep working hard. You cant give up. You cant try and will it to happen. You got to make it happen. That comes through hard work and hell do that. You just got to tackle it head-on and try to find a way to get it done.
The Cubs (9-16) will have to come up with something quick. Two of the best teams in the National League the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves are coming into Wrigley Field for a six-game stand that begins Friday.
We can either hang our heads and sulk, Dempster said, or we can accept what happened today and learn from it and move on and win a game tomorrow.