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Manager Mike Quade says Cubs will keep battling in second half

PITTSBURGH PA - JULY 10:  RamOrtiz #32 Chicago Cubs is pulled by manager Mike Quade #8 against Pittsburgh Pirates

PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 10: Ramon Ortiz #32 of the Chicago Cubs is pulled by manager Mike Quade #8 against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the game on July 10, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) R:\Merlin\Getty_Photos\118743998.jpg

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Updated: October 27, 2011 12:30AM



PITTSBURGH — As the symbolic first half of the season came to an unceremonious close Sunday for the Cubs, they faced more serious questions moving forward than which veteran fill-in guy gets the fifth-starter call coming out of the break.

And while they continued to downplay the significance of Ryan Dempster going off on manager Mike Quade on the dugout step Saturday night in front of TV cameras, the perception is that the happy-face mask is finally slipping after 31/2 months of adversity.

Whether perception becomes reality might be the biggest internal test they’ll face coming out of the All-Star break after a first half that finished with an uninspiring 9-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Quade said he has no concerns about whether the surprisingly strong and consistent effort and tone from the players will continue into the final 70-game stretch of the season.

‘‘It damn well better,’’ he said. ‘‘If a moment like that shatters something like that, from what I’ve seen from this group and this club, then I’ve misjudged the whole bunch.’’

It didn’t help perceptions that they fell so flat so fast less than 24 hours later, then headed off for a three-day break with the second-worst record in the majors — back to a season low of 18 games under .500.

‘‘I look at that as an incident that took place between [a manager] and a guy that wanted to pitch, period,’’ Quade said of Dempster’s vehement response to being lifted after five innings for a pinch hitter. “These guys will play and get through that no matter what.

‘‘And if we don’t have the same kind of tenacity and approach that we did in a tough first half, then we won’t have a better second half that we’re looking for. It’s important. But we will.’’

Quade said he planned to eventually talk to Dempster about Saturday.

‘‘I don’t take long to get to things,’’ he said.

But he also said he wasn’t concerned about any lingering issues, especially considering the kind of player and person Dempster is.

‘‘A guy like him, things take care of themselves a little bit,’’ Quade said. ‘‘I kind of chuckled because it kind of brought me to the day in Washington [last year], like, ‘Of all the guys.’ But not because he was upset like that. Because I like this guy.’’

Dempster, who was taken out of a scoreless game in the eighth after only 70 pitches last August, got over that one quickly. And he said Saturday night that he already had moved past any issues.

‘‘I think I like it,’’ teammate Alfonso Soriano said of Dempster’s latest outburst. ‘‘The attitude that Dempster had, he wanted to be out there. He wanted to pitch. That’s a fighter. That’s good.’’

They’ll need all the fight they can get to get any semblance of respectability out of the second half. They’ll need even more pitching.

But what nobody argued about Sunday was that most of the team can use this three-day break — especially on the heels of a 2-5 road trip that left them with losses in 15 of their last 23 games.

No starter lasted longer than six innings during the just-completed trip.

‘‘I know it’s been tough. It’s a good three days for the bullpen, for sure,’’ Quade said of the break. ‘‘And that’ll change.’’

‘‘It’s huge,’’ Soriano said, ‘‘because everybody’s more tired mentally than physically. I think we need the break to feel good, and when we come back in the second half, we’ll have a better idea and play better.’’



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