Epstein says Dempster was in tough spot
Former Cubs pitcher had Dodgers atop his trade wish list
CHICAGO -- The Cubs would've preferred that Ryan Dempster had a dozen teams he wanted to be traded to, but the right-hander made it clear the Dodgers were No. 1 on his list, and Theo Epstein said it isn't fair to portray the pitcher as being selfish in his stance.
On Tuesday, the Cubs dealt Dempster to the Rangers for two Minor League players after they were unable to complete a deal with the Dodgers. Los Angeles gave Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, a list of untouchable players, and then didn't budge.
Dempster had the final say because he has 10-and-5 rights (10 years in the big leagues, five with the same team). He had given Epstein a list of teams he would consider.
Two or three days before news broke on July 23 that the Braves and Cubs had consummated a deal, Epstein told Dempster that Atlanta was very interested and to consider that team. The day before, Epstein told Dempster the Braves weren't going to wait long for a decision. The Cubs and Braves then finalized the names.
"Ryan never got the opportunity for more than an hour to fully contemplate Atlanta with a deal actually in place," Epstein said. "I feel for him. Instead of having time to contemplate it privately, he had everyone telling him what to do and asking questions about it. I think it's hard to criticize him."
Dempster never said he didn't want to be traded to the Braves. He was holding out for a chance to go to the Dodgers.
"He didn't say 'no' -- he said, 'not now,'" Epstein said. "He said, 'No, I'm not going to go to Atlanta until I see about L.A.' Atlanta very reasonably didn't want to wait around and risk not getting a pitcher. He had a place he wanted to go, and a clear No. 1, which is his right, and he wanted to see that through and I don't hold that against him."
Any criticism directed at Dempster isn't warranted, Epstein said.
"It's not fair for anyone to criticize Ryan unless they've been in that spot," Epstein said. "It's a right he's earned. Do we wish he would've had 12 places that were an ideal destination for him instead of one? Sure. That Atlanta deal that we had lined up, I felt was an outstanding deal for the organization. Would we have liked to have executed it? Absolutely."
The Cubs were to get 22-year-old Randall Delgado in exchange for Dempster. Instead, they were able to still complete a deal with the Braves, sending Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson for two Minor League pitchers.
In the final hour before the Trade Deadline on Tuesday, Dempster was with Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer to listen to conversations with the Dodgers.
"Once he came into our office and actually heard the conversations we had with L.A., he came to realize, 'OK, that's not actually going to happen, let me consider a couple other places,' and the deal got done with about three minutes left," Epstein said.
It was unusual to have a player taking part in the talks, but Epstein said it was helpful.
"If someone really wants to go to a place, you can tell them over and over again that it's probably not going to happen, but unless they're convinced of that, they may not want to move on to their second choice," Epstein said.
Dempster, Epstein and Hoyer were able to joke about the talks prior to the Trade Deadline.
"I know it started to be characterized in the media as contentious, and it wasn't at all," Epstein said. "Had we made that trade with Atlanta, we don't get [Arodys] Vizcaino for Maholm and Johnson. Everything worked out in the end."
Jackson, Vitters could warrant promotions
CHICAGO -- With two months remaining, and the Cubs obviously looking to the future, the team is considering whether or not to promote top prospects Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum and general manager Jed Hoyer were to meet on Thursday to go over the team's plan now that the Trade Deadline has passed.
Jackson, the No. 1 Draft pick in 2009, was batting .253 with 15 home runs, 21 doubles, 11 triples, and 152 strikeouts in 102 games at Triple-A Iowa. Vitters, the top pick in the '07 Draft, was hitting .296 with 15 home runs, 31 doubles in 106 games.
"I don't know if there is any so-called risk involved," Sveum said about Jackson. "Everybody's worried about the failure part instead of the guy coming up here and maybe being a better player in the big leagues than he is in the Minor Leagues, which happens as much as the other way."
The problem with Jackson is the high number of strikeouts.
"On the other hand," Sveum said, "sometimes players, they get to the big leagues and they hit better. You can't even explain it that much. Hanley Ramirez -- we had him in Boston and he never put up any Minor League numbers, and the next year he's in the big leagues and he wins Rookie of the Year.
"Some guys struggle with the third deck in the stadium and other guys perform a lot better with the third deck. It's one of the difficult things in predicting how guys will handle another atmosphere."
If Jackson and Vitters are called up, they need to be in the lineup on a daily basis. Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, said Jackson has done a lot of positives on the field.
"He's playing good defense, running the bases well," Epstein said of the outfielder. "When he does make contact, he's hitting the ball hard and for extra bases. If it's the right thing developmentally for those guys, we'll make the move. Not everyone's development is the same, not everyone has to reach the exact same point in their development. We'll talk about it."
Cubs opt for extra rest with Barney
CHICAGO -- Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney still had a little ringing in his left ear, but otherwise was fine after being hit in the head by a pitch from the Pirates' A.J. Burnett Tuesday night.
Barney did not start on Wednesday in the Cubs' series finale against the Pirates as a precaution.
"I don't think it's anything major, but obviously he got hit in the head and there's some ringing in his ear," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "He's fine, but we'll give him today, especially with the heat, and he'll have [Thursday] off and be ready to go Friday."
Barney was wearing a red hockey helmet in the clubhouse, but that was more for the team's NHL sweater day, not because he needed to have protection on his head.
"When he hit me, I wasn't expecting him to hit me," Barney said. "I was self evaluating when I was standing there [after being hit]. I thought I was fine. I started toward first base, but the way things are these days, they're very cautious with the head and they took me out."
Barney said he wasn't dizzy, and there were no symptoms of a concussion. He also was proud of himself that he scored 100 percent on the tests given by the team's medical staff.
"We're going to be cautious and give it a break today," he said.
Volstad, Cabrera give Cubs extra arms
CHICAGO -- Chris Volstad rejoined the Cubs on Wednesday from Triple-A Iowa, and for now, was assigned to the bullpen. However, the right-hander will likely start this weekend against the Dodgers.
The Cubs also added right-handed pitcher Alberto Cabrera, 23, from Iowa, for a fresh arm in the bullpen and optioned Casey Coleman to the Triple-A team.
The Cubs have been juggling the rotation following the trades of starters Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm. Jeff Samardzija will start on Friday against the Dodgers and was to be followed by Justin Germano. Matt Garza, who has not pitched since July 21, was not expected to throw another bullpen until this weekend, and most likely will not start until the Cubs face the Padres next week. Garza could celebrate as his wife gave birth to the couple's fourth child, a daughter, on Tuesday.
Volstad could go on Sunday. He was 3-5 with a 5.17 ERA in 12 starts with Iowa, and 0-7 with a 7.94 ERA with the Cubs this season.
In his last start July 27, Volstad threw eight shutout innings, giving up four hits and three walks and striking out five.
"I hope we can get out of him what he threw the other day," manager Dale Sveum said before Wednesday's series finale against the Pirates. "He sounded really confident about that start, and how he pitched the left-handers inside and went after everybody, and didn't think too much about anything and just dominated the game."
Volstad, acquired in the offseason from the Marlins for Carlos Zambrano, said he got a lot of confidence from his last game.
"It was just a matter of attacking, making them swing at my pitch the entire game and keeping going," he said. "It was good. I want to continue off that for sure."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.