Cubs

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.

Podcast: Cubs pass the first test in midst of crucial stretch

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Scott Changnon

Podcast: Cubs pass the first test in midst of crucial stretch

On the latest CubsTalk Podcast Scott Changnon and Tony Andracki discuss the state of the Cubs offense, the value of Javy Baez and Addison Russell and what it means now that the starting rotation looks to be finding its form.

With 17 games in 17 days (most of which come against contending teams), the Cubs started things off right with a series victory in St. Louis.

Listen to the entire podcast here:

NHL Draft Profile: D Quinn Hughes

NHL Draft Profile: D Quinn Hughes

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Quinn Hughes

Position: Defenseman
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 170 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"He's got the puck skills, is a good skater, and is a guy with some high-end offensive talent. He wants to get right in there and play where it's hard and where you get rewarded. When he gets that puck on his stick, he wants to bury it."

NHL player comparable: Torey Krug/Kris Letang

Fit for Blackhawks:

It's no secret the Blackhawks are looking to restock their pipeline with some high-end defensemen. Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell are on the way. But the former isn't a lock to be a full-time NHLer this season and the latter will continue playing in college for the 2018-19 season.

Hughes, who shined at Michigan and the IIHF World Championship with Team USA, would have the best chance of the three to crack the Blackhawks lineup first. The problem is, he likely won't be available at No. 8, so if Hughes is the guy they're locked in on, they'd need to trade up to grab him. 

If they did that, Hughes would give the Blackhawks a third blue line prospect they can get excited about. He's a left-handed shot, which evens out the balance in the system, and he would become a prime candidate to eventually replace Duncan Keith as the team's No. 1 defenseman.