The converted starter will try to give his teammates a break and continue his mastery of the Milwaukee Brewers as the teams wrap up a three-game series Sunday night at Miller Park.
Dempster (0-0, 3.00 ERA) served as Cubs closer from 2005-07, compiling 85 saves in 100 attempts before manager Lou Piniella gave him the chance to become a starter last year. The right-hander responded by going 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA in helping Chicago (3-2) win the NL Central.
But there may have been times Piniella was wishing he could bring Dempster out of the bullpen the last two games as the Cubs’ bullpen has already provided plenty of angst. Chicago relievers walked five and new closer Kevin Gregg allowed two ninth-inning runs in Friday’s 4-3 loss, and the bullpen appeared on the verge of another implosion Saturday after Angel Guzman and Neal Cotts issued three bases on balls that contributed to a 5-3 deficit.
“He came in and did a heck of a job,” Piniella said of Marmol before quickly diffusing any controversy of him supplanting Gregg as the closer. “I said when the season started that there would be opportunities for both of them. (Sunday) if we get in a similar situation, Gregg will be in there.”
When Dempster has pitched against the Brewers (2-3) recently, however, the bullpen issues have been moot. He went 4-0 with a 2.40 ERA in five starts versus Milwaukee in 2008, striking out 28 in 30 innings, and is 8-1 with a 2.92 ERA lifetime as a starter against the Brewers.
Dempster allowed two runs in six innings at Houston in his season debut Tuesday before the Cubs lost 3-2 in 10 innings.
Alfonso Soriano’s two-run homer in the ninth made the difference Friday night for the Cubs, and the left fielder is off to a fast start for the first time since arriving on the North Side in 2007. His three homers are already more than he had in the month of April combined in both 2007 and 2008, though Soriano enters this game 7-for-39 (.179) with eight strikeouts against Brewers scheduled starter Jeff Suppan (0-1, 13.50).
Suppan struggled in his 2009 debut, getting reached for six runs and six hits in four innings of Milwaukee’s 10-6 loss at San Francisco on Tuesday. Two of those hits - a triple by Travis Ishikawa and home run by Aaron Rowand - accounted for five of those runs.
“Those were the two at-bats that really stick out in my mind,” Suppan told the Brewers’ official Web site. “In those situations, you’ve got to make the pitch. Both of (those) pitches were in a location where they could drive it.”
The right-hander went 1-1 in three starts totaling 15 innings against the Cubs last season, but he had his worst-ever outing against them in an April 30 loss in which he was tagged for eight runs and 11 hits in 3 2-3 innings. Suppan is 6-6 with a 3.60 ERA in 19 lifetime starts against Chicago.
Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder, who went 2-for-3 with a double and homer in Saturday’s loss, is 4-for-16 with one homer all-time versus Dempster.