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Tuesday February 22, 2011 2:44 pm

Ryan Dempster takes reigns from Carlos Zambrano as Opening Day starter




Posted by Adrien Griffin Categories: Athletes, MLB,

Ryan DempsterThe new-look Chicago Cubs under the helm of manager Mike Quade have answered one of their many Spring Training questions on Monday: who will be their Opening Day starting pitcher? Since 2004 the team has handed the ball to Carlos Zambrano, but he’ll pass the “ace” designation to long-time teammate Ryan Dempster come April 1. Newly-acquired Matt Garza was also a long shot for the job, but seniority won out and Garza will act as the number three in the rotation.

Having Dempster and Garza surrounding him will help alleviate some of the pressure on Zambrano’s shoulders. Dempster has been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball since he was moved from the bullpen to the rotation. In the last three seasons he has a 43-27 record with a 3.49 ERA, 567 strikeouts and 227 walks. In that same span, Zambrano is 34-19 with a 3.71 ERA, 399 strikeouts to 219 walks in 487.2 innings.

While Dempster, Zambrano and Garza will take up the first three rotation spots, Randy Wells, Casey Coleman, Carlos Silva, Andrew Cashner and a handful of others are competing for the final two. The Cubs have three off days in the first three weeks of the schedule, and Quade has hinted he won’t skip the fifth starter during that time, giving everyone an extra day’s rest once a week, keeping everyone fresh through the first month.

The Cubs won the NL Central Division in 2007 and 2008 but couldn’t turn that success into a World Series championship. They finish second in 2009 and missed the playoffs. Last year the team had its first under-.500 season since 2006, finishing with a 75-87 record and falling to fifth. The team hopes that the changes in the rotation and management will help catapult themselves back up the standings to get back into the postseason.

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