Cubs

Dempster keeps going strong for Cubs

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Dempster keeps going strong for Cubs

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.

Cubs-Dodgers NLCS Game 4: The beginning of the end

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USA TODAY

Cubs-Dodgers NLCS Game 4: The beginning of the end

Once again, baseball has proved it's far too wacky to predict.

It's not just the Cubs offense that's been slumping: I've gone 0-for-3 in predictions for each game of the NLCS thus far.

So what's the point in throwing out a prediction again? Based on the last four days, it would be easy to pick the Cubs to lose and that's what I would do, but I've been wrong the first three games, so what do I know?

I never thought the Cubs would get swept in this series. They're too talented, too experienced, too deep to get steamrolled.

But they're also completely worn out and it's showing. The mood in the locker room and the body language on the field is not at all indicative of the same team that showed legendary resiliency last fall.

That's OK. It's understandable. The Cubs have played more games and pitched more innings than any other team in baseball since the start of 2015. 

After all, they are human. 

There is something to be said for a lack of pressure. The Cubs have absolutely nothing to lose right now and they've procastinated all season, playing their best baseball only when they've been backed into a corner.

"Nobody's expecting us to come back except the guys in this room," Kris Bryant said. "I don't know if it's a comforting feeling, but it takes a little pressure off us because nobody expects us to do it."

Bryant also aptly pointed out that if any group can become the second team in baseball history to climb out of an 0-3 hole in a seven-game series, it's the team that ended a 108-year championship drought by erasing a 3-1 deficit in the World Series.

But Bryant said these things without much conviction Tuesday night in the Cubs home clubhouse. 

It looks like these guys left everything in D.C. after that epic Game 5. 

But if I'm wrong again and these Cubs are going to get another entry into the baseball history books, it starts Wednesday night against Alex Wood. Here's the lineup they'll roll with:

1. Albert Almora Jr. - CF
2. Kyle Schwarber - LF
3. Kris Bryant - 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo - 1B
5. Willson Contreras - C
6. Addison Russell - SS
7. Javy Baez - 2B
8. Jon Jay - RF
9. Jake Arrieta - P

Dodgers starter Alex Wood is a pretty neutral pitcher, really good against both right-handers and lefties. So it makes sense that Almora and Schwarber are both in the lineup and atop the order, as they've had the best plate appearances of anybody on the team in this NLCS.

It also makes sense that Jason Heyward is not in the lineup, as his postseason numbers with the Cubs have been downright icky. 

Heyward deserves a ton of credit for his clubhouse leadership, that rain delay speech and incredible defense in the outfield. But he's hitting .109 with a .186 on-base percentage and .156 slugging percentage in 70 postseason plate appearances in a Cubs uniform. That's a .342 OPS.

Barring a curveball with more break than his own, this will be Arrieta's last start in a Cubs uniform, which is maybe the biggest storyline of the game after the whole will-the-Cubs-swept-out-of-the-NLCS-for-the-second-time-in-three-years thing.

When Arrieta started Game 4 of the NLDS, he admitted he couldn't help but take a moment or two to look around Wrigley Field and try to take it all in. This is the place that turned his career around.

Arrieta is also a gigantic reason this Cubs team has played so many games these last three seasons, winning the Cy Young in 2015 and beating the Cleveland Indians twice on the road in the World Series.

It'll be great to see the reaction from the crowd and his own reaction when he steps out to the mound and whenever it is he walks off the bump to the third base dugout.

Are Cubs feeling drained? The clubhouse is divided

Are Cubs feeling drained? The clubhouse is divided

For the second straight week, Kyle Schwarber halted his postgame media scrum to get something off his chest.

Standing at his locker — the same spot he stood exactly a week prior — the Cubs slugger got about as forceful as he's ever been with the cameras rolling.

Are the Cubs drained right now?

"Never. Nope. Not at all," Schwarber said. "I'll shut you down right there — we're not running out of gas at all."

Really? 

You gotta admire Schwarber's grit. He's got that linebacker/football mentality still locked and loaded in mid-October after a brutal first three games of the NLCS.

But...come on. The Cubs aren't drained? They're not tired or weary or mentally fatigued?

Schwarber says no, but it doesn't look that way on the field. They look like the high point of the season was that epic Game 5 in D.C. It was one of the craziest baseball games ever played, very reminsicent of Game 7 in last year's World Series.

Only one thing: Game 7 was the ultimate last game. They left it all on the field and that was cool because there was no more season left. Last week's wacky contest wasn't the final game of the season. It was just the final game of the FIRST series of the postseason.

So if the Cubs aren't feeling any weariness — emotional, physical, mental or otherwise — they must be superhuman.

Yet Anthony Rizzo — the face of the franchise — backed Schwarber's sentiment.

"I'm 28 years old right now," Rizzo said. "I could run laps around this place right now. I've got a great job for a living to play baseball.

"We have a beautiful life playing baseball. You gotta keep that in perspective. So if you wanna try to get mentally tired, realize what we're doing."

Rizzo talked that talk, but his performance on the field has hit a wall. After his "Respect Me!" moment in Game 3 of the NLDS, Rizzo went hitless in his next 16 at-bats before a harmless single Tuesday night. He then struck out in his final trip to the plate.

Bryzzo's other half — Kris Bryant — actually took the opposite stance of his teammates.

"Yeah, [that Washington series] was pretty draining, I think," Bryant admitted. "Some good games there that I think were pretty taxing for our bullpen and pitchers, too. 

"Kinda expect that around this time of year. The games mean a lot."

It's not surprising to hear those words from Bryant. In fact, it wouldn't even be mildly shocking to hear every player in the clubhouse share the same point of view.

The Cubs played all the way past Halloween last fall, then hit the town, having epic celebrations, going on TV shows, having streets named after them, etc. 

Then, before you know it, there's Cubs Convention again. And shortly after that, pitchers and catchers report. 

From there, the "title defense" season began, featuring a lackluster first half and a second half that took a tremendous amount of energy just to stave off the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central and get into the postseason.

Oh yeah, and then that series with the Nationals where the Cubs squeaked out a trio of victories by the slimest of margins.

These Cubs have never really had anything resembling a break. 

However, they're now just one game away from getting that rest they so badly need (and deserve).