Dempster Taking Notes From Other Closers

For now, longtime starter Ryan Dempster is the favorite to be the Cubs' closer.

Dempster, who has just two career saves, will go into camp as the leading candidate over LaTroy Hawkins, Joe Borowski and Kyle Farnsworth if the Cubs cannot trade for an established closer.

The 27-year-old is up for the challenge. He bounced back well last year from Tommy John surgery on his right (throwing) elbow and posted a 1-1 mark with a 3.92 ERA in 23 appearances out of the bullpen, and opponents batted just .208 off of him.

"You see a lot of guys go from starter to closer. I had a great time last year coming into a couple of save situations. That phone rings in the 'pen in that inning and your heart rate goes up to come into the big situation, so I would look forward to doing something like that."

Dempster picked the brains of Eric Gagne, Troy Percival and Brad Lidge during the offseason. He is not presuming he has the job, but he wants to be prepared if he gets it.

"The bottom like is that you are going to blow saves," Dempster said. "As a closer, it seems you are never a hero until the playoffs. A guy could save 20 games in a row and if he blows one, they are going to talk about the blown save. They are not going to talk about the 20 saves in a row."

"I had a locker next to (Cincinnati closer) Danny Graves, and I always watched him. Whether be blew a save or won the game, he always came in the next day and you would not know if he saved the game or lost the game. You would not know. That was impressive because he would blow one game and save the game the next night. That's huge."


Kerry Wood will likely be the Cubs' Opening Day pitcher for the third straight year. Cubs manager Dusty Baker said Wood "is still the man and a veteran." Last year, Wood missed two months of action with a triceps injury and finished 8-9.

OF David Kelton, who is hoping to grab a spot on the roster in spring training, suffered a thumb injury in winter ball in Venezuela, but Cubs officials think he will be ready for camp.

BY THE NUMBERS: 74—Homeruns that Moises Alou and Sammy Sosa combined for in 2004. Alou left as a free agent, and Sosa appears headed for Baltimore.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You know, Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin didn't always get along when the New York Yankees were winning. I don't think Jim McMahon liked Mike Ditka too much when they were winning and I don't think Johnny Unitas liked Don Shula every day, either. The world is full of a lot bigger cases than this. There is no reason that when camp begins and Sammy comes in with a good effort and we get out to a good start that all of this can't end." --Cubs general manager Jim Hendry on the relationship between right fielder Sammy Sosa and manager Dusty Baker before it appeared that Sosa would be traded.

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