The Q Train picked up speed Tuesday night with another big win over a quality opponent and then picked up some more passengers - with veteran pitcher Ryan Dempster giving Mike Quade the strongest endorsement yet in the interim manager's hunt for the full-time Cubs job.
``He's done a great job, and I hope he's here longer than just this year and managing for us next year,'' said Dempster (15-11) after pitching seven impressive innings for the Cubs' second straight win over San Diego, ``because he deserves it.''
The Cubs improved to 21-11 since Quade took over for the retiring Lou Piniella, who left Aug. 22 to care for his ailing mother.
Included in that 32-game run is a 4-2 record against St. Louis that helped eliminate the Cardinals and 1-0 and 5-2 wins over San Diego the past two nights that have put a serious dent in the Padres' postseason plans.
They're 14-3 on the road under Quade, who has managed steady, impressive production from a mostly rookie bullpen, walked an effective line between back-pat and butt-kick, and earned the respect of at least a few important veterans.
``Unbelievable,'' center fielder Marlon Byrd said of the job Quade has done. ``The record speaks for itself. The way we're playing, the way we're executing - just all around, the moves he's making. He shows he has the qualifications and he can get a team to play for him.''
Asked whether he wants to see Quade back as the manager next year, Byrd said, ``Definitely, definitely. Who wouldn't? I feel that if he's not here, he's had an unbelievable audition for a lot of teams. We feel like we owe it to him to play well, and I think everyone [respects him], and that's really showing.''
Quade faces potentially stiff competition from franchise icon Ryne Sandberg, who's put in four successful years managing in the Cubs' minor-league system, and strong outside candidate Bob Melvin, the former Seattle and Arizona manager that GM Jim Hendry plans to interview.
Hendry also has interviewed former Cleveland manager Eric Wedge.
Byrd says he'll stay out of Hendry's way and doesn't plan to offer his input unsolicited.
``That's not my job,'' he said ``Hendry has a better feel than I do. He know what he has to do. ... Whoever he's going to bring in is going to do an excellent job and we're going to play hard for him.''
Dempster and Byrd are just the latest Cub veterans to go on the record supporting Quade.
Catcher Geovany Soto gave his thumbs-up last week: ``He's doing a great job. No doubt if he's back on board, he will be welcomed with open arms.''