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Ryan Dempster trade might be imminent

The Cubs’ Jeff Baker rounds bases after his fifth-inning home run Tuesday against Marlins Wrigley Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

The Cubs’ Jeff Baker rounds the bases after his fifth-inning home run Tuesday against the Marlins at Wrigley Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Marlins at Cubs

The facts: 7:05 p.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM.

The starters: Josh Johnson (5-6, 4.28 ERA) vs. Jeff Samardzija (6-8, 4.71).

Updated: August 19, 2012 6:34AM

Reports continue to circulate about the trade market for right-hander Ryan Dempster , with some reports suggesting he might be dealt before his scheduled start Friday in St. Louis.

And while baseball insiders had considered the Los Angeles Dodgers a clear front-runner for the last month, major-league sources say that pursuit might have cooled just enough to put other teams in the picture for Dempster, whose 1.86 ERA leads all big-league starters.

Sources say interest from the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees isn’t nearly as strong as several reports indicate. That might leave the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves at the front of the Dempster derby.

Samardzija on tap

Right-hander Jeff Samardzija will be working on extra rest when he makes his 18th start of the season Wednesday. The extra rest is part of the Cubs’ plan to monitor his innings in his first season as a full-time starter.

Samardzija has pitched 1011/3 innings so far. That’s already well beyond the 88 innings he pitched in relief last season.

‘‘The plan all along is try to keep those innings down,’’ manager Dale Sveum said.

Samardzija started the season strong, then struggled for a time. But he has bounced back and pitched well recently.

Samardzija said he is learning to use what he feels good throwing early in a game ‘‘and what I can go to in tough situations.’’

‘‘That’s been the ongoing adjustment for me going start to start,’’ he said. ‘‘You definitely have to be efficient. You have to get outs and get them quick.’’

Another homecoming

While most of the attention Tuesday was on Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen and right-hander Carlos Zambrano returning to Chicago, left-hander Mark Buehrle also was in the ‘‘Chicago homecoming’’ mix.

Buehrle will start the series finale Thursday for the Marlins, the team he joined as a free agent after 12 seasons with the White Sox.

‘‘So far, it’s been good,’’ said Buehrle, who is 8-8 with a 3.25 ERA. ‘‘New city, new team, new spring training.

‘‘I like the National League a lot better, facing a pitcher instead of a DH. It doesn’t get better than that, but you still have to make pitches.’’

Buehrle said he talked with Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf soon after the end of last season.

‘‘He said, ‘If [staying with the Sox] doesn’t work out, I want you to know it’s nothing personal,’ ’’ said Buehrle, who indicated he remains fond of Reinsdorf.

Contributing: Gordon Wittenmyer

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