Cubs RHP Dempster hoping for better ending

MESA, Ariz. – Ryan Dempster’s switch was the Chicago Cubs’ gain last season. The closer-turned starter won 17 games, made the All-Star squad and helped his team capture a division title.

What he couldn’t do was deliver on what he predicted in spring training.

“I think we are going to win the World Series. I really do,” Dempster said a little more than a year ago.

But he struggled in the playoff opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers, throwing 109 pitches in 4 2-3 innings. He gave up four runs and four hits – including a grand slam – while matching a career high with seven walks.

That 7-2 loss at Wrigley Field, where Dempster had fashioned a 14-3 record in the regular season, got the Cubs off to a bad start before they were swept away. The quick ouster ran their drought without a World Series winner to 100 years.

“You’re never going to forget it, never not remember what happened, but at the same time, it just depends on how you handle it. You use it. Do you let it bother you and get you down or do you use it as something motivating?” Dempster said.

“There will be questions about it all year, but it is a new year and that’s the nice part.”

The Cubs rewarded Dempster with a four-year, $52 million contract in the offseason and now he’s being counted on as one of their mainstays.

“By the end of the year, he was pitching as well as anybody we had,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.”

He gained a lot of experience pitching out of the bullpen and in the pressure situations ending ballgames.”

Dempster was 28-for-31 in save chances in 2007, 24-for-33 the previous season and 33-for-35 in 2005 when he became the full-time closer.