Cubs give Dempster three-year, $15.5M extension

HOUSTON -- Chicago Cubs closer Ryan Dempster agreed Saturday to a $15.5 million, three-year contract extension through the 2008 season.

Going into Saturday's game in Houston, Dempster had 33 saves in 35 chances and was 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA in 57 relief appearances. He
had converted 19 straight save opportunities, tying a team record
during a single season, and his 21 1/3 consecutive scoreless
innings were the longest streak by a Cubs reliever since 1989.

"Obviously, it's been one of those things that you're really happy about," Dempster said. "It shows a lot of respect for me and I have a lot of respect for the way they've handled me. I'm
glad to be here for three more years. Hopefully, I can help them
reach their goals and get to the World Series."

Dempster had worked primarily as a starter for Florida and Cincinnati before surgery on his right elbow in 2003. He signed with the Cubs as a free agent last year, and was 1-1 with two saves
and a 3.92 ERA in 23 late-season games.

Dempster was a third-round draft pick by Texas in 1995, then traded the next year to the Florida organization. He started 121 games for the Marlins from 1998-02 before being traded to Cincinnati, where he started 35 games over two seasons before surgery in August 2003.

"It's a big day for me in my career to get some security like
that," Dempster said. "It's definitely a little surreal."