Dempster ambushed amidst trade talk

ST. LOUIS -- At least one major-league scout cringed Friday over the reality that Ryan Dempster was getting one more start in a Chicago Cubs uniform before possibly being traded.

The scout, who is with an American League club not currently in the running for Dempster’s services, understood that no team has probably met the club’s asking price, but knowing the Cubs are intent on dealing Dempster before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, one more starts represent a certain amount of risk.

While the scout’s major concern was the potential for injury, another was the fallout from Dempster having a poor outing.

It wasn’t as if Dempster was crushed on Friday by the St. Louis Cardinals, but it was a rough outing by his lofty standards of late. Dempster gave up three first-inning runs to end his 33-innings scoreless streak and went on to give up four runs total, including a 469-foot home run from Matt Holliday.

He recovered from a quick flurry of offense to probably not alter his trade value to much, but the point of the scout was well taken.

Dempster would still have one more outing in a Cubs uniform before the trade deadline, but the chances he pitches Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates seem remote.

Dempster said the daily, and sometimes hourly, rumors have not caused him any distraction, but manager Dale Sveum was understanding if they had.

“Obviously that’s a lot to be dealing with, a streak like that and obviously the rumors of any day, any hour, any second,” Sveum said. “It’s not the easiest thing to deal with.”

Dempster agreed with Sveum that his issues Friday had more to do with an ambush offensive strategy by the Cardinals than a ragged thought process.

“I think I gave up three runs and had only thrown 13 pitches,” Dempster said. “The first batter of the game didn’t swing at a pitch and four of the next five guys every hit was on the first or second pitch. It was just a case where you want to come out and be aggressive but you don’t want to throw the ball over the middle and I felt like I missed out over the plate with a couple of those.”

The Cubs would never recover from the three-run hole, getting only Darwin Barney's second-inning sacrifice fly in the 4-1 defeat.

“I just have to do my job,” Dempster said. “Tonight it was really a span of six pitches and the next thing you know it was 3-0. You have to tip your hat to them for being aggressive. They could have popped those pitches up or ground out or flew out or whatever but they didn’t, they hit them really hard and got some base hits.”

Dempster also helped to make history Friday, but not the kind he was looking for. He is now the pitcher to give up the longest home run in new Busch Stadium history.

“I settled down and made some pitches other than Matt Holliday hitting one off the arch,” Dempster said.

That ability to settle down showed that Dempster still has plenty to offer a contending club. Now the front office will see if other clubs try to alter their trade offers in the wake of the outing.

What does seem clear is that ultimately Dempster will be dealt, but any move is in his hands with his 10-5 rights that allow him to agree to any deal first.

“It’s awesome being the hammer and not the nail,” he said.

The 33-inning scoreless streak ended up being tied for the seventh longest in Cubs history and 11 innings away from Ed Reulbach’s club mark set in 1908. Despite his first defeat since May 25, Dempster was still proud of going five starts without allowing a run.

“It was a lot of fun to go out there and do that,” he said. “It’s kind of a humbling thing to [do] something like that. You dream about doing things like that or to think they are even possible. To go out and do them is another thing. I’m very proud of that and I just want to keep battling, go out there and try to win my next start on Wednesday.”

That start might be with somebody else, though, and the news could be a phone call away. And what does Dempster think when the phone rings these days?

“I’m hoping it’s Publisher’s Clearning House,” Dempster said.