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updated: 7/14/2012 4:43 PM

Cubs' Dempster the consummate pro

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  • Chicago Cubs starter Ryan Dempster throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the third inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Saturday, July 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

      Chicago Cubs starter Ryan Dempster throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the third inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Saturday, July 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

 
 

There's only one Mr. Cub, and that's Ernie Banks.

During the last couple of years, Kerry Wood had a version of that moniker put on him by former Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd, but the real face of the franchise for most of the past decade has been Ryan Dempster.

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Dempster is still a Cub, for now at least.

He was very much in attendance Saturday during a 4-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Even without his best stuff, Dempster worked 6 shutout innings of 4-hit ball as the Cubs won for the 11th time in 15 games. He also extended his scoreless-innings streak to a career-best 33 innings.

That's the longest streak by a Cubs starting pitcher since Ken Holtzman went 33 in 1969.

The last time Dempster had a similar streak came over 2005-06, when he was in the midst of a three-year run as the Cubs' closer and he went 30.

So it's been a pretty impressive Cubs career for Dempster, who is 67-64 with 87 saves.

We bring all of this up because Dempster might not be here much longer. As one of the most effective starting pitchers in all of baseball this season -- 5-3 record and 1.86 ERA -- Dempster most assuredly will be snapped up in a trade by some contending team.

Given his recent run of scoreless innings, it's pretty obvious he's not letting that weigh on his mind.

"No, for me, honestly, like I said before, I'm well aware of things going on and rumors and things like that," the 35-year-old veteran said. "But I'm a member of the Chicago Cubs, and I'm trying to do my best job for this team and for my teammates and to go out there and be ready every fifth day to give them my best effort."

Dempster's immediate focus is on getting ready to make each start, but he has amassed quite a legacy, both on and off the field in Chicago.

He has succeeded as both a starting pitcher and as a closer. He's been involved in the community, and he's a popular and respected veteran in the clubhouse.

"I look back and just think how lucky I've been to be able to play here for as long as I've played here," said Dempster, who joined the Cubs for the 2004 season after he underwent reconstructive elbow surgery the previous August. "Anytime you have a chance to play in a city for nine years and be a part of some really good teams, fight through some tough times when things haven't gone so well, I'm really fortunate. The city's been tremendous to me and my family. I'm so thankful for the opportunity and trying to give my best effort when I'm out there. I've just truly enjoyed every moment of it. I look forward to my next time out there and going out there and making my next start."

That next start could come for a team such as the Dodgers or Tigers. Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said before Saturday's game that he has not bothered Dempster with the goings-on. Dempster has the right as a veteran player to refuse any trade involving him, but he has indicated he would go in the right deal.

"He's fantastic," Hoyer said of Dempster. "Top-notch clubhouse guy and really a leader. He wanted to come back so badly from that (recent lat-muscle) injury. It showed us a lot. We could have taken it slower with him. He wanted to get back on the mound really quickly to compete and obviously pitched well in New York (last Sunday). He's a guy that loves the competition on the mound, and he wants to be out there and wants to be a part of it as much as possible."

And therein lies part of the rub. Dempster was a stalwart clubhouse presence when things weren't going well earlier this season, and the young players on the team can look up to him.

However, the Cubs are in a rebuilding mode, and if teams offer a decent package in return, Dempster no longer will be in the Cubs clubhouse.

"Yeah, I understand the business side of baseball, too," he said. "If you can better your team for the future and you're able to acquire some guys ... I haven't really given a whole lot of thought to what it might feel like to be somewhere else right now. I'm just enjoying playing here and winning today and being part of this nice little run we're on."

bmiles@dailyherald.com

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