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Ryan Dempster still with Cubs, but Braves are closing in

Ryan Dempster Cubs high five's teammates after pitching fourth inning Wrigley Field Saturday July 14 2012 Chicago. | John J.

Ryan Dempster of the Cubs high five's teammates after pitching in the fourth inning at Wrigley Field Saturday, July 14, 2012, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 23, 2012 9:30PM

PITTSBURGH — Multiple reports say the Atlanta Braves are closing in on a trade for Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster.

A source acknowledged that the Braves were strongly pursuing the right-hander Monday. A second source said a trade for Dempster wasn’t expected to be completed Monday night.

The reports came as news to an irritated Dempster when he awoke from a nap Monday. He responded with a tweet from his Dempster Foundation account that read: “THERE IS NO TRADE dont know where this info came from!”

When Dempster arrived at PNC Park, he declined to talk about what he and the club referred to as “speculation.”

“There is nothing to report,” said Cubs assistant general manager Randy Bush, who is representing the front office on the Pittsburgh trip while team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer are back in Chicago.

Nothing in the works?

“There is nothing to report,” Bush repeated. “There’s no news. I don’t know how things like this get out there. Obviously, we’re having a lot of trade discussions with a lot of teams.”

Talks with the Braves on Monday appeared to center on 22-year-old right-hander Randall Delgado (5-10, 3.98 ERA in 24 career big-league starts in the last 13 months).

Dempster, who has full no-trade rights, has about $5.8 million left on the final year of his contract. Despite reports suggesting Dempster is seeking an extension to approve a trade, a source close to Dempster strongly refutes that.

Manager Dale Sveum, who talked to upper management after also being caught off-guard by the reports, said he was told talk of an agreement with the Braves that awaited only Dempster’s approval was false.

“I found out about it after I came in off the field from early BP and somebody said they saw it on the website,” Sveum said. “I got on the website and saw it and obviously called the higher-ups to make sure. And they’re like, ‘No, nothing’s happened.’ I don’t know where that came from.

“I think we all know there can be a trade. But the [specific trade with the Braves], the whole thing was news to me. The team obviously is the one that leaked it out or it came out of their city. But obviously we can’t sit here and say it can’t happen. Anything can happen at this point; we have eight days till the deadline. All the teams that are involved in wanting or needing starters are in play, there’s no question.’’

That prominently included the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team Dempster is believed to prefer, until focus shifted toward the Braves in the last two days.

Dempster is believed to be willing to consider waiving his no-trade rights to join the Braves. He said last weekend that his priority is a chance to win.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, have begun looking harder at Matt Garza, even after the right-hander was forced from his start Saturday because of a triceps cramp near his pitching elbow. The Dodgers like the idea of having control over the younger, harder-throwing pitcher beyond this year with a chance to sign him to an extension, said one source.

Garza won’t make his next start any earlier than Saturday because of the elbow, Sveum said. But Garza and the team remain optimistic that the injury isn’t serious and that he’ll avoid the disabled list.

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