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Dodgers haven’t soured on Ryan Dempster


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The starters: Travis Wood (4-4, 3.91 ERA) vs. Lance Lynn (11-4, 3.27).

Updated: August 23, 2012 11:03AM

ST. LOUIS — Despite reports that the Los Angeles Dodgers have scaled back their interest in Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster, they still appear to be as strong a contender for him as any other.

The Dodgers were among close to a dozen teams still in St. Louis on Saturday to scout the Cubs, with another potential trade target, Matt Garza, on the mound. Garza left after three innings because of a triceps cramp.

The Dodgers have had their eye on both pitchers and reportedly were close to a deal for Dempster before he pitched Friday night.

The Washington Nationals, whom several industry insiders expected to be among the strongest challengers to the Dodgers for Dempster, have much of their interest tied to the performance of starter John Lannan. He pitched especially well in his season debut Saturday, going seven strong innings against the Atlanta Braves. Lannan retired 18 of his final 21 batters.

Reported interest in Dempster from the St. Louis Cardinals also has been overstated. General manager John Mozeliak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Saturday that he’s not against trading within the division, but there’s a long-term element to keep in mind.

“If you’re buying and you’re giving up an elite prospect, that would be tough to look at for the next seven to 10 years,” Mozeliak said.

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer, who’s with the team in St. Louis, wouldn’t comment on details of talks for Dempster, but he has kept a continuous dialogue with Dempster.

“It’s only fair to Ryan to keep him in the loop,’’ Hoyer said. “If nothing else, he’s got 10-5 [no-trade] rights, so he has to be in the loop. He’s going to be part of the discussion, and he deserves to be.”

“It’s awesome being the hammer and not the nail,” Dempster said after his start Friday.

Dempster hasn’t ruled out waiving his no-trade rights for an American League team that appeals to him. Contrary to at least one report Saturday, he also hasn’t made a contract extension part of any requirement for approving a deal.

Dempster is in the final year of a contract that pays him $14 million this season.

NOTE: The Cubs gave hard-throwing right-hander Juan Carlos Paniagua $1.5 million last week because they think the 22-year-old Dominican has a chance to start at a more advanced level and rise quicker than a typical “amateur’’ free agent.

Paniagua had contracts with the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees voided in the last three years and was made ineligible to sign twice because of fraudulent paperwork. The Cubs signed him on the day his last ineligible period expired.

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