CHICAGO -- Ryan Dempster continues to pitch like he’s going to be here forever. He knows no other way.
The reality is that Dempster’s lifespan with the Chicago Cubs figures to be no longer than six weeks and could be much shorter. As one of the few players that could bring a haul of prospects -- or one very good one and some fringe pieces -- he has emerged as the club’s top trade piece.
He knows this of course, and not just because president of baseball operations sat with him in the grandstands this week to update him on what has been happening behind the scenes.
“I’m not naïve,” Dempster said. “I’m not oblivious to what’s going on, but it’s really kind of not out of my control. It really is in my control.”
By that, Dempster has once again acknowledged that he has the right to veto any trade since he has 10 years in the league and five with the same team. But he knows the situation and that by agreeing to a trade he can not only help the Cubs’ situation, he can help his own by immediately finding himself on a contender.
He refuses to dwell on it, though, especially when it’s time to pitch as it was Friday. He put all the distractions aside and fired seven scoreless innings against the Boston Red Sox to give him 22 consecutive scoreless innings overall.
With everything around him and his family about to change, he’s pitching better not worse.
“It’s one of those things that if I focused on that and I worried about that, I wouldn’t be doing a very good job as a teammate to those guys in there,” Dempster said. “And I wouldn’t be doing a very good job to myself if I wasn’t focusing on what I needed to do. Whatever ends up happening ends up happening.
“Right now I’m here, and I love being here and everybody knows that. I love the city of Chicago and playing for the Cubs and will try to do the best I can.”
The thoughts on Dempster being a great clubhouse presence and a steadying influence are universal. He’s a hard worker who sets the right example and has time for anybody who asks. It’s why Steve Clevenger called him irreplaceable.
“He's one of the most professional, hard working people you're ever going to be around,” manager Dale Sveum said. “When he steps out of the mound it's all game on with him. It's not trade rumors or 'Where am I going to go' or anything like that. It's how I'm going to get the next pitch.”
Fellow veteran and fellow steadying force in the clubhouse David DeJesus marvels at Dempster’s leadership qualities.
“You don’t want to lose your No. 1 starter, it would be tough, but we understand it’s a part of the game,” DeJesus said. “We’d love to have him here but if it happens, we’ll move on. That’s the nature of baseball.
With one more scoreless inning, Dempster will pass Carlos Zambrano’s 22-inning scoreless streak in 2004. Where that inning takes place is in question. His next outing with the Cubs is scheduled for Wednesday against the Chicago White Sox, unless the front office finds a deal it likes before then.
“I played here a long time and always said I wanted to play the rest of my career here and love being a Chicago Cub and love playing in this city,” Dempster said. “For me I’ve had a chance to play in a lot of different cities everywhere and it’s the best place to play. It’s really incredible. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but right now I’m just enjoying the fact that we won today’s game and get to enjoy that.”