Former ace Ryan Dempster, one of many ex-Cubs scattered throughout spring training camps, made his first Grapefruit League start Tuesday for the Boston Red Sox against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Dempster, whom the Cubs traded to Texas last July 31 after that whole contretemps with the Los Angeles Dodgers, worked 2 scoreless innings, giving up no hits and no walks while striking out two.
Pitching for a poor Cubs team in the first half last year, Dempster went 5-5 with a 2.25 ERA and a WHIP of 1.04. He found the going tougher in the American League. With the Rangers, he was 7-3 with a 5.09 ERA.
He signed a two-year, $26.5 million deal with the Red Sox this off-season. Dempster will turn 36 on May 3, but he told the Providence Journal he doesn't feel old.
"There is a lot in the tank, more sometimes than we realize," he said. "And sometimes it might take somebody on your team to push you a little bit extra.
"That's just us as human beings. There's always more than we realize we have potentially. Sometimes it takes a coach or a player to motivate you and help you out. I don't know when I necessarily learned that; I've always just kind of believed that. I believe in pushing each other and getting the best out of each other.
"I still feel like a kid. I'm trying to learn every day just like the young guys. We have experience, but there's always new things to learn, new hitters, new ways to pitch guys."
Yu got him:
Former Cubs catcher Geovany Soto is the backup in Texas to former White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. But Soto may end up being the personal catcher for Yu Darvish.
The Rangers' website points out Soto was behind the plate for Darvish's final 8 starts of 2012, when Darvish went 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA.
"He was a big part of my success," Darvish was quoted by the site. "We had really good communication from the beginning."
Darvish started Tuesday against the White Sox, but Pierzynski was behind the plate this time.
"We had good chemistry and an understanding of each other," Soto told the Rangers' site. "He has great stuff and he understands baseball terms. The biggest thing I did was know when to go to the mound to get him to relax, when he needed a breather."
Soto had a poor year offensively, putting up a line of .199/284/.347 with 6 homers for the Cubs and .196/.253/.338 with 5 homers for the Rangers.
He can do better and that some different work may help, he said in the Rangers report.
"I can do it, but I think in the past I haven't worked on my swing in the off-season the way I should have," Soto said. "This offseason I really worked at getting it consistent and figuring things out. I feel good."
Soto sees a lot of familiar faces in the Rangers's clubhouse in Surprise, Ariz. Lefty Jeff Beliveau was claimed off waivers from the Cubs by Texas. In camp as nonroster men are lefty Neal Cotts, infielder Jeff Baker, outfielder James Adduci and right-haner Randy Wells.
Big Z still free:
Former Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano is still a free agent. His big contract expired after last season with the Marlins.
Zambrano is on the Team Venezuela roster for the World Baseball Classic. There have been reports Zambrano might sign with a team in Japan or Taiwan after the WBC.
Even with his history, it's difficult to believe this is the end for Big Z. He won't turn 32 until June, but the numbers weren't great last year, when he went from starter to reliever. Big Z was 7-10 with a 4.49 ERA and a feverish WHIP of 1.50 for Miami.
Baseball Prospectus put it this way: "… With nearly 2,000 innings on his right shoulder, he may not have much left."