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Dempster working on offspeed stuff

MESA, Ariz. -- There appeared to be more offspeed pitches in the mix for Chicago Cubs starter Ryan Dempster on Monday as opposed to spring games last year.

Dempster has admitted to new manager Dale Sveum that his slow start to the 2011 season could be related to how things went in spring training.

“He had an unbelievable spring training last year here; he had an unbelievable command of his fastball, he said,” manager Sveum said. “And that might have gotten him into a little bit of trouble because he mentioned he wasn’t using his secondary pitches as much because he was so caught up in having great fastball command, he didn’t work his offspeed stuff as much in spring training last year.”

Something surely was amiss because before the calendar turned to May, Dempster was 1-3 with a 9.58 ERA in six starts.

In a two-inning, opening-start tune-up Monday, Dempster gave up one run on two hits with two strikeouts.

“I’ve been working on everything this spring and my offspeed stuff is already ahead of where it was last year,” Dempster said. “You can work on fastball command just playing catch so I have been using my sides to work on my other stuff and work on my offspeed pitches just so they’re crisp when the season starts.”

Not that Dempster is looking for a reason to be motivated, but rebounding from his rocky April and pitching in the last season of his Cubs contract could give that to him this year.

“I think all those pieces fall into place if you just go out there and do your job,” he said. “Whatever they end up being, the easiest thing for me to do is to focus on my job and that’s preparing between starts and every fifth day go out and do the best job I can to be mentally and physically prepared to pitch.”

First things first, though, and that’s to show that the opening month from last season can be corrected.

“That’s why I worked hard this winter” Dempster said. “Any time you have a subpar year, speaking for me personally, you really don’t like it a lot and you want to do better the next time. The easiest way to do that is to go out, work hard and be as ready as you can. Be prepared. And I have done a lot of that this spring and I’m looking forward getting through here healthy and [being] ready for the season starting.”