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Cubs’ Ryan Dempster braces for his inevitable departure

Ryan Dempster plays catch with sBrady before Cubs’ victory against Marlins Wrigley Field. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

Ryan Dempster plays catch with son Brady before the Cubs’ victory against the Marlins at Wrigley Field. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 21, 2012 6:38AM

Ryan Dempster spent time with his young son Brady on the field before Thursday’s game, as he often has, pitching to him from one knee, throwing him grounders, chasing him on the bases.

If it looked more conspicuous than usual, maybe that’s because they were the only ones on the Wrigley Field diamond hours before the game.

Or maybe it’s because even Dempster realized this might be his last chance for such a father-and-son moment at the place that has been his baseball home since before Brady was born.

“Yeah, for sure,’’ said Dempster, who headed to St. Louis with the Cubs on Thursday night for a scheduled start Friday night that not even he is certain he’ll make.

And with a half-dozen teams circling the Cubs hoping to pick off Dempster before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the likelihood that his victory Saturday against the Arizona Diamondbacks was his last start as a Cub at Wrigley Field might not have sunk in until well after the plane touched down in St. Louis.

“I haven’t really given myself time to think about it yet,’’ he said Thursday before the Cubs — behind another trade target, Paul Maholm — beat the Miami Marlins 4-2.

“I’m just trying to focus forward and not really think about that kind of stuff. Maybe I’m just in denial and I don’t really want to give in to that. Because I’ve got bigger things to focus on, like going out and trying to win.’’

Whether it’s a matter of hours or days, Dempster is the most certain, imminent Cub to be dealt before the deadline in a move expected to start a domino effect of activity by the team in the next 12 days — if not a domino effect in the industry involving trades of other pitchers.

Dempster said before the game that he has been in occasional contact with the front office but hasn’t been informed that a particular deal is imminent.

But even as the team headed to the airport after its 14th victory in 19 games, Casey Coleman was scratched from his start for Class AAA Iowa on Thursday as a hedge against a Dempster trade being made before the game Friday. However, a team spokesman said it’s really a hedge against nondescript middle reliever Justin Germano being unable to find a domestic flight to St. Louis in the 26 hours of notice he got once the Cubs acquired him.

The Cubs sent cash for Germano to the Boston Red Sox, who designated him for assignment over the weekend. The Cubs designated reliever Jairo Asencio for assignment in a corresponding move.

Regardless of Coleman, the Cubs admittedly have been especially active in trade talks in general this week, and multiple national reports suggested a Dempster deal will get done by the end of the week.

He has full no-trade rights but has said he’ll consider waiving them and seems to prefer staying in the National League. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who have been the most serious pursuers for the longest time, are considered the front-runners, and Dempster has friends on the team (including former Cubs teammate Ted Lilly) and personal ties to the area.

The Atlanta Braves and possibly the Washington Nationals also are in play. That would be anything but good news for teams such as the Marlins, who have at least faint hopes of clawing back into the NL East race.

“Wow,’’ Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. “Whoever gets Dempster will be going right to the top and put themselves in great position to win the division. I wish I was in that position. He’s a winner. He’s great in the clubhouse. And he’s pitching well.’’

Dempster, who owns the majors’ top ERA (1.86) and a 33-inning scoreless streak spanning five consecutive wins, knows it’s close, even as he tries to keep his mind on business as usual.

“I’m well aware of the trade rumors, but I don’t focus on them,’’ he said. “I’ve still got a job to do, and I take a lot of pride in that. It’s flattering to know a lot of teams want you, but at the same time I’m worried about doing my job.’’

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