Notes: Baker keeps faith in Dempster
Skipper aims to prevent doubt from affecting closer's approach
CHICAGO -- Ryan Dempster is still the Cubs' closer.
Cubs manager Dusty Baker said he'll stick with the right-hander, who blew his fifth save on Saturday in the Chicago White Sox 8-6 victory. Dempster served up A.J. Pierzynski's three-run homer with two outs in the ninth for the win.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was only the fourth time in the last 20 years the Cubs have lost a home game in which they led with two outs and no one on base in the top of the ninth.
Since May 1, Dempster has a 1-5 record and is 6-for-11 in save situations with a 7.25 ERA (18 earned runs in 22 2/3 innings).
"I talked to [bullpen coach] Juan Lopez, and he said in the bullpen he had pinpoint control, great velocity, great movement, great everything," Baker said of Dempster. "If nothing's physically wrong with him, you have to point to the mental. As strong as athletes are, as strong as we all are, we're all capable of having periods of doubt. Once any kind of doubt sets in, then most of the time you get negative results. We have to eliminate any negative thoughts, any doubts."
Baker talked to Dempster before Sunday's game. He tried to call the pitcher Saturday night, but Dempster didn't answer the phone because he was feeding his son, Brady, born May 28.
Last season, Dempster's first as a closer, he led the National League in save percentage. The Cubs signed Scott Eyre and Bob Howry to improve the setup pitchers. Baker said he didn't want to change the two pitchers' roles.
"Yesterday, he made one bad pitch," Baker said of Dempster. "I'd say right now, Demp's the closer. Guys go through tough times. A year ago, everybody was crying for Demp. Now they're crying for somebody else. It's not that easy to find somebody else. You try to fix what you have."
Eyre doesn't want to change places. He likes his job.
"[Houston's] Brad Lidge is supposed to be one of the best in baseball and he's having a tough year," Eyre said. "[Mariano] Rivera started off last year tough and finished unbelievable.
"In Demp's defense, we haven't had a whole lot of save situations," Eyre said. "It is different pitching with the lead. It's not supposed to be, but it is. It's the same with hitters. When it's 15-2, how did they score the 15? They're relaxed, they're hitting. If it's 2-0, it's, 'Oh, I've got to do this.' In my eyes, Demp's our closer. If something else happens, something else happens. I'll try to get the ball to him in the ninth inning."
Arms race: Kerry Wood played catch with pitching coach Larry Rothschild on Sunday, the first time he's been allowed to throw in a week. Wood had an MRI last Monday in Cincinnati to make sure there was nothing structurally wrong with his right shoulder.
Wood will play catch again Monday in Houston, and is not expected to be allowed to throw off a mound for another week.
Wade Miller will make his third Minor League rehab start Monday for Class A Peoria. Miller is expected to throw about 60 pitches.
Left-hander Glendon Rusch, on the disabled list with back problems, is expected to be activated on Monday. Rusch will be assigned to the 'pen.
For the record: Scott Williamson may not be doing any radio interviews any time soon. A Chicago sports talk radio show interviewed Williamson on Sunday, and told local media the pitcher said he was upset with the way Baker was using him and that he wanted to be traded. Not true, Williamson said.
"How is it Dusty's fault? He's not giving up three-run homers," Williamson said after Sunday's game. "He's not giving up a two-run homer to Joe Crede. I gave that up [on Sunday]. He put me in a situation to succeed, and I didn't come through. I don't see how people can blame the manager for that.
"For them to take something that I was trying to be sincere about and try to corner me in a situation and say, 'Dusty should be fired,' absolutely not," he said.
Williamson could be traded, simply because he's a free agent and valuable to a playoff-bound team needing bullpen help. The Cubs have signed relievers Dempster, Eyre and Bob Howry to long-term deals.
"I never said I hoped to be traded," Williamson said. "I said I probably would be traded because I'm a free agent."
All-Star Sunday: The All-Star team will be announced Sunday, and Eyre most likely won't make the team. Setup pitchers usually don't.
"They're picking closers," he said. "But you can't get to the closer without me."
The Cubs left-hander also would like to see the stats altered a bit for setup pitchers.
"My dad asked me -- I came in with the bases loaded, one out, and I got a sacrifice fly and an out," Eyre said. "I get a blown save for that. That's [nonsense]. I'm not going to get a save. I'm not going to pitch the seventh, eighth and ninth. Like yesterday, I get a blown save. I should get a 'blown hold' or something."
Music man: Rather than play "Jump" by Van Halen before every game, Cubs organist Gary Pressy has tried different songs. If the Cubs win, Pressy will play the same song the next day. Entering Sunday's game, the last home game before the All-Star break, U2's "Beautiful Day" is 5-5. "Jump" is 3-4, Bon Jovi's "Have a Nice Day" is 3-5, Coldplay's "Clocks" is 2-6, and Pearl Jam's "Even Flow" is 0-2. Any suggestions?
Music man, part II: Some Sunday, you might tune to 97.9 FM, The Loop, and hear some Led Zeppelin, and you'll know it's the "Sunday morning changeup" with Will Ohman. The Cubs left-hander is doing a test show for the radio station, which he pre-records.
"It's a fun and cool thing," said Ohman, who is quite the music buff, and considers Led Zeppelin the "greatest rock band of all time."
Swept away: Since the Cubs and White Sox began playing a six-game, home-and-away Interleague series in 1999, the Cubs have never gone 1-5. They were swept at home once, in '99, and finished 2-4 against the Sox that year.
The Cubs have been swept eight times this season while doing so once, when they took three against St. Louis April 7-9, at Wrigley Field.
Minor matters: Rich Hill gave up one run on seven hits over seven innings in Triple-A Iowa's 8-7, 12-inning loss to Omaha on Saturday. Hill is now 5-1 with a 1.85 ERA. He will start for the Pacific Coast League in the Triple-A All-Star Game July 12 in Toledo. Casey McGehee went 4-for-5 for the Iowa Cubs, Micah Hoffpauir and Felix Pie each had two hits.
Chris Shaver threw six shutout innings and struck out nine in Double-A West Tenn's 1-0 win over Huntsville. Scott Moore doubled and scored on Carlos Rojas' single for the lone run. ... Roberto Sotolongo threw five shutout innings and gave up two hits in Class A Daytona's 1-0 win over Brevard County. ... Yusuf Carter hit a grand slam in the second inning to help Class A Peoria beat Burlington, 12-7. Mark Reed and Alberto Garcia each had two hits. ... Jeff Samardzija gave up one run over three shutout innings in Class A Boise's 4-0 win over Tri-City. Samardzija, the Cubs' fifth-round pick, struck out five.
On deck: Rookie Carlos Marmol will make his fifth start Monday when the Cubs open a three-game series in Houston at 7:05 p.m. CT. The Astros will counter with Roger Clemens, who is 0-2 with a 2.38 ERA in two starts. The game will be broadcast on WGN Radio and Comcast Sports Net. The Astros will start Andy Pettitte (6-9, 5.58 ERA) in Game 2 on Tuesday and Roy Oswalt (6-3, 3.26 ERA) on Wednesday.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.