Fresh off a disappointing 2011 campaign, Ryan Dempster got back to work this off-season on and off the field. To have success moving forward, Dempster had to forget about the past, “I forgot about last April,” Dempster said. “I put that behind me.” Dempster has already moved on from last year, and he’s ready to prove that he belongs at the top of the rotation, and judging by the Spring he has had so far, he’s well on his way. His new head coach has already noticed it,
“He had an unbelievable Spring Training,” Sveum said of Dempster, “where he had unbelievable command of his fastball, 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 in spring. He didn’t work on his off speed stuff in Spring Training. Sveum continued, “The bottom line is, he knew he was better than he showed last year, and I think he’s on a mission to prove that he’s the pitcher he was before that.” Personally, I feel that Ryan Dempster is much better than he showed last year, and I think he would be the first to tell you that. Last year was bad, really bad, especially in April, where Dempster went 1-3 with a 9.58 ERA. Just from watching his starts, I think his lack of success stemmed from his lack of command. Countless times during the year Dempster would be in the 5th inning hovering around 90 pitches, and battling just to survive until the sixth. It starts with his fastball, he has to command it and get ahead in the count, but Dempster says it has a lot to do with his off speed pitches as well, “You can work on fastball command just playing catch,” he said. “I’ve been using my sides on my other stuff and my off speed pitches so they’re crisp when the season starts.”
So does all this hard work, and off-season prep translate to Ryan Dempster’s second straight opening day start? It’s a little too early to tell, “We’ve given it some thought, but we haven’t decided anything yet,” Sveum said. “We’re just waiting and seeing how things pan out. We’ll have that done within the next week.” It’s an honor for sure to get the ball on opening day, but Dempster understands that it’s really just game 1 of 162, “I literally take it day by day,” he said. “I’ll let all that play out as it plays out. [Opening Day] is always exciting, but it doesn’t change what my approach on the season will be, whether it’s the first day or fifth day.” A lot of times teams will go with the veteran of the group to get the season started, and that could weigh heavily in Dempster’s favor. He is entering his 9th season with the Cubs, which is hard to believe that he has been around for so long, and Sveum says that is definitely something to consider when making the opening day decision, “That all goes into it, no question about it,” Sveum said. “Who had the better year, the matchups, the leadership, who’s been here the longest, stuff like that, longevity of a career. You can go on and on about the reasons why.”
If the Cubs are going to be successful this year, Ryan Dempster is going to have to get back to his all-star form of 2008. There is no question that the work ethic is there in the offseason, in between starts, and when he is on the hill. That can only take a pitcher so far, eventually they have to go out and execute, and Dempster seems poised to do just that.
Sveum and Dempster quotes via Carrie Muskat
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