MESA, Ariz. -- Ryan Dempster got off to a rough start last year and never recovered in one of his worst seasons with the Chicago Cubs.
Nothing he can do about it now. He is focused on bouncing back this year.Dempster made his spring debut Monday and pitched two innings in Chicago's 8-7 loss to a split-squad of Oakland Athletics. The right-hander, who went 10-14 with a 4.80 ERA last season, allowed one run and two hits."It's why I've worked really hard this winter," said Dempster, who struck out two and walked none. "Anytime you've had a subpar year, you don't like it a whole lot and you want to try and do a whole lot better the next time out. You work out and do what you can to be prepared."Josh Reddick collected two more hits for Oakland, and Brandon Allen hit a sacrifice fly off Dempster in the second to give him eight RBIs this spring.Non-roster invitee Yordy Cabrera led off the ninth inning with a home run against right-hander Tony Zych, lifting Oakland to the victory.Blake DeWitt hit a three-run homer off A's starter Bartolo Colon in the second inning. Jeff Baker added two hits, including a double, and scored two runs for Chicago.Reddick is off to a fast start after coming over from Boston in the Andrew Bailey trade. He tripled in the second inning and is 5 for 8 this spring.Considering the A's suddenly have a crowded outfield with the signings of Yoenis Cespedes and Manny Ramirez to go along with Jonny Gomes, Coco Crisp and Seth Smith, the hot start by Reddick can only help his chances."That's why we are here," Reddick said. "You work all offseason to be ready to go from the start."Reddick only saw three pitches from Dempster but said he could tell that the starter had a good changeup.Working in the off-speed stuff early might be the key to Dempster getting off to a fast start. He was 1/3 with a 9.58 ERA in six April starts last season.Cubs manager Dale Sveum, who expects to announce an opening-day starter within a week, speculated from having conversations with Dempster that the poor opening month might have been because he relied too much on his fastball."He had an unbelievable spring training where he had unbelievable command of his fastball and that might have gotten him into a little bit of trouble because he mentioned he wasn't using his secondary pitches as much because he was so caught up in having great fastball command in spring," Sveum said. "He didn't work on his off-speed stuff in spring training."The bottom line is, he knew he was better than he showed last year and I think he's on a mission to prove that he's the pitcher he was before that."
Cubs C Geovany Soto (groin) is expected to see his first game action somewhere between Wednesday and Saturday. ... Jeff Baker and Joe Mather had two hits apiece for Chicago. Mather also had two stolen bases.