April Fools?

Not quite, the Chicago Cubs announced yesterday that Ryan Dempster will be their Opening Day pitcher on April 1st, 2011 when the Pirates come to open the season at the “friendly confines,” not Carlos Zambrano.

Zambrano has been the Cubs Opening Day hurler for the last  six seasons, which is a franchise record (last year he pitched only 1-1/3 innings and gave up 8 runs in the 16-5 loss to Atlanta).  New manager Mike Quade, has decided to try his luck with Dempster who has been said to be emotionally more steady than Zambrano. Dempster finished last season with a 15-12 record while posting a 3.85 ERA, logging over 200 innings pitched, and 208 strike outs.

After Zambrano came back from anger management training he was “lights out” posting an 8-1 record with a microscopic ERA of 1.41 in his final 11 starts. By that time, it was a little too late, the Cubs were out of the race.

Chicago went out and got right hander Matt Garza from Tampa Bay in the off-season. The move cost them handley, losing 2010 Minor League Player of the Year – Brandon Guyer, and Pitcher of the Year – Chris Archer. Garza posted a 15-10 record last season tossing a no- hitter against Detroit.

Rounding out the starting rotation, are two right handers Randy Wells, and Carlos Siva, both of whom have something to prove this year.

As for the bullpen, closer Carlos Marmol will be in place after setting a major league record with an average of 15.99 stikeouts per nine innings last season. Kerry Wood will also be back to show his love for the “Windy City” turning down offers from both the White Sox, and Red Sox during the off-season. The others in the pen include three left-handers, John Grabow, Sean Marshall, and Tom Gorzelanny. From the right it will be Andrew Cashner, and Justin Berg.

The Cubs aren’t picked to win the NL Central, but maybe with this rotation they can hang on long enough to turn “Next Year” into “This Year.”

Jeff Miller

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