Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

Dempster to start Opening Day for Cubs

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MESA, Ariz. - Anybody who didn't already know that a new Cubs era has dawned will learn in no uncertain terms on April 1 when for the first time since 2004 somebody not named Carlos Zambrano will be the starting pitcher for the Cubs on Opening Day.

In his first major decision since winning the manager's job last fall, Mike Quade tabbed Ryan Dempster for the opening start April 1 at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Zambrano, whose franchise-record streak of consecutive opening starts ends at six, is scheduled for the Cubs' second game, with newly acquired Matt Garza pitching the third game.

All three were called into Quade's office this morning and told together, the manager said.

``The bottom line is how important all three of those guys are going to be for us this year,'' said Quade, who had already decided Garza would make the third start before agonizing over the past 24 hours over which returning veteran would get the opening call.

``I don't think there was a bad decision to make,'' said Quade, who said Dempster's performance in recent seasons, especially over the full season last year, was a major factor in the decision - along with matchup considerations, including lining up Zambrano for the Cubs' road opener in Milwaukee, where he has pitched well in his career.

Zambrano, whose roller-coaster 2010 included a month in anger management followed by an 8-0 finish, had said he wanted to get the opening start but that he would be OK with Quade's decision.

Quade said Zambrano took the news well.

``I think they all understand what I expect from them,'' said Quade.

The pitchers were on the field working and not immediately available for comment when the decision was announced.

Kerry Wood was the last pitcher besides Zambrano to start an opener for the Cubs, in '04.

Dempster, who made the successful transition from closer back to frontline starter in 2008, earns his third career Opening Day start. He started openers for the Florida Marlins in 2001 and 2002.

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I seem to be the only one commenting so far. Oh well, It's early. I do think Dempster is a good choice and has earned the honor. Z has not done all that well on opening day. He seems to need a bit longer to get his head working than Dempster does. If Z. starts off the way he ended last season, who the ace is will be quickly decided.I'd like to see the whole starting rotation start off at 9-0, or at least the first three. I am really interested in seeing what Garza can do.

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