Chicago Cubs

No matter what, Dempster wants to finish strong

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No matter what, Dempster wants to finish strong

Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011
Posted: 10:32 p.m.

By PatrickMooney
CSNChicago.com CubsInsider Follow@CSNMooney
Box scoreREAD: In this division, next Cubs GM will have a chance
CTL: Why does Quade play veterans over younger guys

CINCINNATI Clubhouses around baseball are filled by impressionable kids, September call-ups who are getting a taste and dont know if theyll ever be back.

Ryan Dempster holds a 14 million player option for next season.

Dempster has all this leverage, but isnt looking forward to vacation. The Cubs extended him to 128 pitches on Tuesday night, two away from his career high and the most hes thrown since 2001.

All Dempster had to show for it afterward was another hard-luck loss, this time 2-1 to the Reds in front of a mostly empty Great American Ball Park. Others are definitely watching. All the young pitchers look up to Dempster and try to follow the example he sets.

Thats always important, crossing the finish line, Dempster said. Getting through times like back in 01 probably helped me (later on). Its probably not the healthiest thing to go out there and throw 120-plus pitches every start.

But to do it once in awhile especially toward the end of the season when youre still strong and you feel good (is) important.

Given that veteran status, the Cubs (65-83) will likely reconfigure their rotation down the stretch so that Dempster will get three more starts and the chance to reach 200 innings for the fourth consecutive season. Hes at 183.2 after going seven innings and giving up two runs to the Reds (72-76).

Dempster, an affable, down-to-earth personality, can be seen walking the streets of Lakeview with his son. Major League Baseball recognized his charitable work on Tuesday by announcing that he was the Cubs nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award.

But behind all that, there is a deeply competitive side. Everyone saw that on July 9 in Pittsburgh, when Dempster got into a shouting match with Mike Quade in the dugout after the manager pulled him for a pinch-hitter after five innings.

This time Quade let Dempster bat in the seventh, even though nine times out of 10 the manager would call on a pinch-hitter. With a runner on third, Quade also allowed Dempster to finish the inning and strike out Jay Bruce.

That was out of respect for him, Quade said.

Theres no doubt that Dempsters numbers are down this season 10-12 with a 4.66 ERA. But in a year where the Cubs have had no idea what theyll get from one start to the next, hes been a consistent rotation piece. Theyll need more of those in 2012.

After a brutal April 9.58 ERA in six starts Dempsters showing that he still has something left.

Im just glad that I bounced back after such a terrible first month of the season, Dempster said. Im just trying to finish as strong as possible. A good year for me would have been us playing a lot better.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Are You Smarter than a Cubs/White Sox Fan? Pt. 2

Are You Smarter than a Cubs/White Sox Fan? Pt. 2

The crosstown rivalry doesn't end on the diamond.

Both Cubs and White Sox fans are highly competitive when it comes to trivia, too. 

We found that out when we bounced around Guaranteed Rate Field to quiz North and South Siders in a special edition of "Are You Smarter than a Cubs/White Sox Fan?" 

Watch the video above as we pitted fans against each other for the chance to win a killer shirt.

With or without Justin Verlander, Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to stay in first place: ‘We have the pieces’

With or without Justin Verlander, Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to stay in first place: ‘We have the pieces’

The Cubs already have a Cy Young Award winner, someone who was transforming into the hottest pitcher on the planet around this time in 2015, and then beat the Cleveland Indians twice on the road in last year’s World Series.

So the Cubs can keep discussing Justin Verlander and trying to figure out the price point where it makes sense, what caliber prospects they would have to give up and how much money the Detroit Tigers would have to kick in to cover a bill that could soar toward $90 million. 

But Jake Arrieta showed why the Cubs might finally start to run away from the division and become a very dangerous team in October, dominating the White Sox on Wednesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field during an 8-3 win that vaulted them into first place in the National League Central.          

“We expect to remain in first place,” Arrieta said. “We know it’s going to be a tough task, but that’s kind of what you deal with at the highest level of sports. You expect to have really good competition from teams that are either equal with you or close behind.

“We feel like we have the group to separate ourselves at this point in time and remain in first place for the remainder of the way.”

The Cubs probably don’t have the blue-chip prospects – and the appetite to raid their farm system again – to blow away the Oakland A’s and win a bidding war for Sonny Gray. The Cubs kick the tires on everything, but Yu Darvish would be a rental and the Texas Rangers are torn over what to do with their Japanese star. 

This is another reason why the Cubs are focusing on adding a veteran backup catcher and strengthening the bullpen before the July 31 trade deadline: Arrieta Watch is back, taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning in front of a sellout crowd of 38,517 before Omar Narvaez drilled a ground-rule double into the right-center field seats.  

The Cubs are 10-2 since trading for Jose Quintana during the All-Star break, erasing a 5.5-game deficit against the Milwaukee Brewers heading into this weekend’s showdown at Miller Park. At 53-47, the Cubs are a season-high six games over .500, and it all starts with pitching.  

“I think we’ve got the pieces to get it done,” Arrieta said. “If there’s a situation where we can get another guy and not lose any key players, it might work in our favor.

“Obviously, when we traded for Quintana, that’s a huge addition to our ballclub. This guy’s really good. He works his butt off. And just seeing how he carries himself in between starts is a really great sign. To have a guy like that who works extremely hard and cares about the team winning ballgames – you can’t replace that.

“That trade right there in itself is one that’s going to pay huge dividends for this ballclub, not only for this year, but for the next couple years. But we’re a great team right now, and I think we have the pieces to get it done.”  

Arrieta was on cruise control until Yoan Moncada launched his 98th and final pitch – an 0-2 curveball – 409 feet over the center-field wall with two outs in the seventh inning. Arrieta only allowed those two hits, giving up two runs and finishing with five strikeouts against two walks, continuing the correction super-agent Scott Boras predicted when the Chicago media and Cubs fans wondered about his flashes of diminished velocity and spikes in hard contact during a free-agency push.

Arrieta has methodically put together 10 wins and three straight quality starts after the All-Star break, chopping his ERA down from 5.44 in the middle of May to 4.03. Ricky Renteria’s White Sox are obviously tanking for the future and there are a lot of conditions attached to this statement: 

But if Arrieta pitches like this, Jon Lester continues to be one of the best big-game pitchers of his generation, Quintana excels in a pennant race and Kyle Hendricks regains his feel and rhythm after six-plus weeks on the disabled list, then the Cubs might have a better playoff rotation than the one that ended the 108-year drought.     

“We’re feelin’ it,” Arrieta said, thinking back to last summer, when Theo Epstein’s front office added 100-mph closer Aroldis Chapman to a team with close to a 99-percent chance of making the playoffs. “I remember last year we were in this clubhouse around this same time, and it’s no different.” 

Look at the competition: The Washington Nationals might be forced into adding a frontline starter now that Stephen Strasburg is headed to the 10-day disabled list with a nerve impingement in his right forearm. The Los Angeles Dodgers are hoping a strained lower back won’t stop Clayton Kershaw from making a few tune-up starts in September before becoming their Game 1 starter in October.

With or without Verlander, the Cubs are ramping up to defend their title.

“I’m going to continue to get stronger as the year progresses,” Arrieta said. “I feel like my best baseball, my best pitching, is still ahead of me. And I’m ready for it.”