Despite a swirling rumor mill, Chicago Cubs ace Ryan Dempster made his start Friday night in a 4-1 loss to the Cardinals in St. Louis.
Dempster's name has been mentioned in trade rumors for several weeks, and there had been speculation the Cubs were preparing to start right-hander Casey Coleman on Friday. Coleman was scratched from his scheduled start Thursday at Class AAA Iowa.
But Dempster took the mound. He wasn't his best, having his 33-inning scoreless streak snapped in the first inning on the way to lasting six innings and giving up seven hits and four runs.
A trade of either Dempster or No. 2 starter Matt Garza would come as a surprise to no one.
"I kept my phone on high volume today," manager Dale Sveum said. "Obviously, you just never now. It can happen like that. One phone call changes the whole scenario. It can happen quick. It can happen with more than one guy.
"You have to prepare for stuff like this. It's never a perfect world, because you never know that day or hour when it's going to happen."
The Cubs have played better ball of late, going 14-6 in their last 20 games. Therein lies the rub. Players in the clubhouse don't want to stop the momentum, but realistically, the Cubs (38-54) are going nowhere, and the new management team is in building mode, which means veterans such as Dempster are likely to be gone.
"You can't deny it's only going to take away from the clubhouse atmosphere," Sveum said. "The leadership role, the work ethic, you don't replace the whole package (Dempster) has."
Dempster has 10-and-5 rights and thus can veto any trade involving him. He has indicated he'd go in the right deal. Dempster's contract is up after this year, and he's also said he'd like to stay in Chicago, even as the Cubs rebuild.
"I'm sure if they have something that has any substance to it, they'll come up and ask me," he said of being in the loop on trade talks. "But until then, I'll just worry about what I can do. It's awesome being the hammer and not the nail."