Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dempster Set for Opening Day Start

Tomorrow at 1:20, Ryan Dempster will take the hill as the Cubs opening day starter for the first time. Demp will get the nod against the Pirates at Wrigley Field. Mike Quade announced that he would receive the nod to start the season a week before Cactus League games even began, ending Carlos Zambrano's streak of Opening Day starts.

Zambrano started the first game of the season every year from 2005 to 2010. Before that, Kerry Wood (2003-2004) and Jon Lieber (2000-2002) took the honor. Newcomer Matt Garza was also in the mix for the 2011 nod, but he will start the season's third game on Sunday.

Dempster does has previous opening day starting experience, but it has been a while. The last time he took the hill to start a season was in 2002, his second straight Opening Day with the Florida Marlins.

Ryan is set to begin his eighth year as a Cub. It is the final year of his contract, but he is expected to pick up his player option for 2012. A year ago, Dempster went 15-12 with a 3.65 ERA in 34 starts. Quade is not ready to call him the "ace", but he is expected to be the most consistent member of the starting five.

After spending three years as the Cubs closer, Dempster moved into the rotation for the first time in 2008. He had an outstanding year, posting 17 wins and an ERA of 2.96. Surprising performances from he and fellow starter Ted Lilly, who also won 17 games, helped the Cubs win their second straight division title.

Ryan is one of the more charitable and friendly Cubs. He rarely turns down an autograph seeker and raises lots of money for children with illnesses similar to his daughters.

The Opening Day honor is well-deserved for a great pitchers and a great guy. Although the Cubs do not open up until tomorrow, today is Opening Day for some Major League Baseball teams.

Here's the schedule:
Yankees VS Tigers Noon ESPN
Angel VS Royals 3:10
Braves VS Nationals 12:05
Brewers VS Reds 1:10
Padres VS Cardinals 3:15 ESPN
Giants VS Dodgers 7:00 ESPN

I will be at Fitch Park this afternoon to see Andrew Cashner's final tuneup in a minor league game. I'll let you know how it goes later.

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