Dempster keeps going strong for Cubs

Dempster keeps going strong for Cubs
September 18, 2010, 2:00 am
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Friday, Sept. 17, 2010
10:24 PM
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MIAMI If Carlos Zambrano does retire once his contract expires and assuming the team does not ask him to waive his no-trade clause he will have spent almost half his life in the Cubs organization.

Signed at the age of 16, Zambrano will be only 31 at the end of the 2012 season and his 91.5 million deal. Clearly Zambrano is unique just as his agent Barry Praver apparently tells him.

Mike Quade hadnt heard about Zambranos retirement thoughts late Wednesday night, which he also expressed 15 months earlier. The manager turned to a media-relations staffer Friday afternoon for clarification: Just Z being Z?

Really? Maybe hell take me with him, Quade said. Jesus, lets both go to Venezuela and spend the rest of our lives in Caracas.

Its difficult to see where the Cubs will be in two years.

Ryan Dempster should be nearing the end of his four-year, 52 million contract. And there will be curiosity about Zambranos vesting 19.25 million player option for 2013, which kicks in if: he finishes first or second in the 2011 Cy Young vote; or if he places in the top four of the 2012 Cy Young vote and is healthy when that seasons complete.

If Dempster and Zambrano remain healthy and motivated and if some of the young pitchers hyped by the front office develop quick enough maybe the rebuilding process doesnt have to be that long.

Dempster spent parts of seven seasons in the Florida Marlins organization, but he will be remembered for his time with the Cubs. After Fridays 2-0 victory at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, he has now reached 30-plus starts and at least 200 innings for the third consecutive season.

Its a goal of mine every year, Dempster said of the 200-inning mark. It says that youre staying healthy and youre giving your team a chance to win.

But Im not done yet. I still got a few more starts to go. I want to go out there and finish strong and not settle on that number and keep going.

The Cubs (66-81) are hoping for a carryover effect into 2011 with their young players like Starlin Castro, who committed his 26th error on Friday but later made a spectacular play to end the game. After Carlos Marmol walked two Marlins, the rookie shortstop laid out near the left-field line for a diving catch that secured the win.

I just wanted to finish up on a good note, Castro said through an interpreter.

Quade is aware of individual milestones, and will try to make sure that Castro (.309 average) gets enough plate appearances to appear on the National League leader board. Its unlikely Dempster (14-10, 3.50) will be able to tie his career high of 17 wins. With the Cubs looking at a possible six-man rotation, he will probably receive two more starts.

He can sit back and feel like he did one heck of a job this year, Quade said. Hes not the kind of guy that is going to say something. Thats the other thing I love about him.

As the Cubs lean on more and more pitchers who probably thought theyd spend more time at Triple-A Iowa this season, they will be counting on Dempster to set the tone for the entire staff. Theyd love 400 more innings out of his right arm.

Dempster will be 35 at the end of his 14 million player option for 2012. He has family considerations, and seems like he would be a natural fit for television, but isnt thinking about the end of his career.

Until they tell me to take my uniform off, Dempster said, Ill play as long as I can play. I enjoy doing it, so (thats) the furthest thing from my mind.

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

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