Is Dempster gearing up for Opening Day?

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Is Dempster gearing up for Opening Day?

MESA, Ariz. Dale Sveum speaks in a low, monotone voice and believes its a sign of weakness to show your emotions. But a reporter who keeps asking about the Opening Day starter got a reaction out of the Cubs manager.

Give it a rest, man, Sveum said Tuesday. I keep telling you the same thing. Youll be the first one to know.

It was the logical follow-up question during Sveums media session. The manager had just finished raving about Matt Garzas energy and loud personality. It will either be Garza who has Cy Young stuff, but hasnt quite put it all together yet or Ryan Dempster, a clubhouse leader and franchise ambassador beginning his ninth season in Chicago.

Its hard to believe that a coaching staff with a microscopic attention to detail and very specific ideas about the roster is really still debating the decision. Sveum seems to have pushed his timeline back, now saying that the announcement could come Friday.

Still, it would be a surprise if Dempster, who earned the assignment last season, doesnt take the ball on April 5 at Wrigley Field against the Washington Nationals. He stretched out to six innings during Tuesdays 6-2 loss to the Texas Rangers and looked sharp, giving up only a two-run homer to Dusty Brown.

Dempsters in line to make two more starts in the Cactus League, and the next fifth day would be April 4.

Well talk about that when it happens, Dempster said. I got work to do tomorrow and get ready for my next start.

For an organization that has undergone sweeping changes, there really arent many jobs up for grabs this spring. Sveum again confirmed that Paul Maholm will be in the rotation, and at this point it would be a shock if Jeff Samardzija doesnt make it.

The Cubs arent going to panic with first baseman Bryan LaHair, whos hitting .189 this spring and played in a minor-league game on Monday to get some extra at-bats. They arent going to rush Anthony Rizzo or Brett Jackson either.

Joe Mather has just about nailed down the final bench spot. Welington Castillo or Steve Clevenger will be the backup catcher. The bullpen is undefined, but its just a matter of who will get the ball to Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol.

Then again, everything can seem neat and orderly once you fall into the Arizona routine. Dempster looked great last spring and then put up a 9.58 ERA in his first six starts.

Youre still talking about April last year? Dempster said. Im just worried about this year. Ive forgotten all about that. I dont even think about (those) games. Im focused on getting everything as sharp as I can and just worry about executing pitches. Thats the difference between success and failure.

Hopefully, by the time the season starts, its right where I need to be.

Preps recruiting: Illini add another 2017 piece

Preps recruiting: Illini add another 2017 piece

Illinois and head coach Lovie Smith added another piece to the Fighting Illini Class of 2017 late last night when Prospect two-star ranked offensive tackle Alex Palczewski (6-foot-6, 270 pounds) gave Illinois his verbal commitment.

"I felt extremely comfortable at Illinois," Palczewski told Orange and Blue News publisher Doug Buschon last night. "I know with Coach Lovie Smith there, that program is going to go sky high. We're going to win."

Palczewski, who flew under most recruiting radar screens missed his entire 2015 junior season because of an injury is now the 20th known verbal commitment in the Illinois Class of 2017 and the ninth known in-state commitment. 

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