The Chicago Sun-Times’ Chris De Luca on the ever-changing status of Cubs hurler Ryan Dempster. Hey, it’s all pitching, right?

Here we were, on the brink of Lou Piniella’s biggest shakeup as Cubs manager. Closer Ryan Dempster and fifth starter Angel Guzman were going to swap roles in the blink of a blurry eye. It was the big secret Piniella had been dangling in front of reporters all weekend.

It had the potential to be a really bad move. But before it got to that point, it turned into one of the most embarrassing mixups at Wrigley Field since Sammy Sosa’s mysterious exit at the end of the 2004 season.

For Dempster, it was a bizarre and unnecessary twist that resulted in a full 360-degree turn — from closer to starter back to closer again without a pitch being thrown.

There was Dempster shortly after the Cubs’ 10-6 loss to the White Sox on Sunday, embracing a move back to the rotation — one he clearly had been relishing.

”It didn’t shock me, but I was definitely surprised,” Dempster said of Piniella broaching the subject of starting after the closer blew a 5-1 lead in the ninth inning Thursday night at Shea Stadium. ”I was excited. Honestly, it was was probably as excited as I’ve been in a long time. Excited to get back out there and start and, hopefully, do it for a long time.”

A long time? Less than 30 minutes later — after a closed-door meeting with Piniella, pitching coach Larry Rothschild and general manager Jim Hendry — Dempster was back in front of his locker, as near to red-faced as the unflappable closer can get.

”April Fool’s,” Dempster said. ”Um, yeah, obviously, we just kind of talked about things, and for right now, I’m going to go back down there and close.”


For now, Dempster will continue to close and right-hander Angel Guzman will be groomed for a ninth-inning role he never has filled during his professional career.

In other masters-of-ego-massage news, St. Louis’ Tony La Genius coped with his club’s weekend capitulation to the Tigers by letting the local scribes know he’s pissed off with Jim Edmonds’ curious route to a long fly ball by Sean Casey.