Chicago Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster delivers during the second inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, July 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Updated: August 27, 2012 11:16AM
PITTSBURGH — A week’s worth of stress and frustration wound up all over the Cubs’ dugout at PNC Park when Ryan Dempster got lifted from his final start as a Cub after six innings and 93 pitches Wednesday.
“I’m allowed to be upset,’’ said the Cubs’ two-time Opening Day starter, who reacted to manager Dale Sveum’s decision by slamming a cooler lid to the ground, flinging the open cooler toward the dugout rail and then hurling his drink cup against a screen before exiting into the tunnel.
“I respect [Sveum] a lot. It’s his decision, but it doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it,’’ said Dempster, who surrendered the go-ahead run in the 3-2 loss to the Pirates on a two-out double by Garrett Jones in the sixth. “He’s just trying to do what’s best for the ballclub. I have nothing but respect for that. It’s just the competitor in me wants to get out there and keep trying to pitch.’’
Sveum shrugged off the dugout tirade: “People are competitive and sometimes they’re going to get upset about things.’’
Dempster has been taking it in the teeth from Cubs fans via blogs and Twitter the last two days for looking out for his and his family’s best interests instead of the team’s when he used his well-earned no-trade rights to reject a trade that would have sent him to the Atlanta Braves for well-regarded prospect Randall Delgado.
“It’s been a little bit of a grind,’’ he acknowledged of the emotionally charged week.
With less than a week left before Tuesday afternoon’s non-waiver trade deadline, Dempster said he plans to take Thursday’s off day to consider whatever options are still available to him — though the options appear to be down to whether the Cubs can get a deal done with the Los Angeles Dodgers, his first choice, after revisiting those talks in the wake of the scuttled Braves deal.
Multiple reports suggest the Cubs have asked about right-hander Allen Webster, a Class AA prospect, in the renewed talks with the Dodgers.
The Cubs’ front office declined comment on the Dempster saga.
But Braves general manager Frank Wren told an Atlanta radio station Wednesday the Braves have “moved on. … We put parameters on the deal that expired [Tuesday]. We were moving on from the time we heard that there was the potential for another club really where he wanted to go, and he had a lot of personal reasons for that.’’
Dempster has a relationship with Wren and Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, going to early in his career with the Marlins, when Wren was an assistant GM and Gonzalez a minor-league manager there.
“I respect Frank Wren a lot,’’ Dempster said. “They can’t worry about waiting around for me to make my decision, and understand that fully. And if that’s still an option down the road [closer to the deadline] then that’s something I’m going to have to look at. But I’m going to try to make the best decision for me and my family.’’
Asked what the Braves’ stance is should Dempster reconsider, Wren told 680 The Fan, “I’m not going to paint us in a corner one way or another. Let’s just say that we have moved on.’’
With new rules in the collective-bargaining agreement eliminating draft-pick compensation for free agents unless teams make steep offers (about $12.3 million this year), the Cubs’ are all but forced to trade Dempster, regardless of some speculation making the rounds that they might choose to keep him.
It clearly is a matter of trying to gain the most desired destination at this point.
“In this case, from my understanding — and I’m only getting it second-hand from the Cubs,’’ said Wren, “they had a meeting with him a couple weeks ago and laid it out, and the primary two suitors were us and the Dodgers. And he has positive things to say about both, and he had a slight preference for the Dodgers because of [former Cubs teammate] Ted Lilly.
“He and Ted Lilly are best of friends, and he’d like to go play with his friend. And I think there were also some personal issues that suited better for him.’’
Ultimately, Dempster is expected to approve a trade by the deadline and acknowledged the likelihood he has pitched his last game as a Cub.
“I know it’s a real strong possibility,’’ he said. “I’m going to take a plane ride [home from Pittsburgh] and try to enjoy my off day [Thursday], if that’s possible, and then kind of see where I’m at from there.’’