05/01/12 12:26 AM ET
Sveum happy with Cubs' effort in first month
By Mike Radano / Special to MLB.com
"Obviously, you'd like better results on the winning side of it," Sveum said. "The pitching has been OK. The starters have been well above average on most days. It's just a matter of us being able to score runs."
Sveum has a point, especially after the last week, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. The Cubs finished the month ranked 13th in the National League in pitching, with a 4.21 ERA, but the return of right-hander Ryan Dempster could change that.
Dempster, who has been on the 15-day disabled list since April 18 with a right quadriceps strain, threw a successful bullpen session on Monday, and the Cubs expect him to return to the hill on Thursday in Cincinnati.
"Our pitching has been good enough for us to create leads, but we haven't done that," Sveum said. "Other than what other teams have had, we've had a few hiccups, but the effort has been tremendous."
Dempster targeting Thursday to return from DL
PHILADELPHIA -- On Monday, Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster got back to baseball after he spent part of Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center watching a 4-3 overtime win by the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers over the New Jersey Devils in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Dempster, who began the day at Citizens Bank Park -- where the Cubs beat the Phillies, 5-1, behind a strong effort from starter Matt Garza -- is friends with Flyers forward Daniel Briere, who scored the game-winner.
"It was awesome," said Dempster, who said he didn't wear a Flyers jersey. "I wore my regular clothes. I was rooting on my buddy, who did a really good job."
Dempster's 10-year friendship with Briere aside, the good news is the quadriceps strain that forced him to the 15-day disabled list is healed enough that he is likely to make his return on Thursday in Cincinnati. The righty (0-1, 1.33 ERA) threw a successful bullpen session on Monday and appears ready to bolster a rotation that has been a bright spot early this season. He will probably replace Randy Wells, who coincidentally also threw a bullpen session at Citizens Bank Park.
"I feel good and ready to go," said Dempster, who arrived at the Wells Fargo Center midway through the second period. "I didn't change much today. It's the bullpen, and you can't get game speed, but I just tried to let it go and command the ball, because when you are out that long, miss a couple starts, the toughest thing is to come back and command the ball."
Dempster last pitched in the Major Leagues on April 17, so he said he threw with more vigor than he usually would have.
"It was a little more intense," he said. "You have to make sure you can push off, but everything felt great."
Marmol's misstep Sunday doesn't worry Cubs
PHILADELPHIA -- Cubs closer Carlos Marmol's work on Sunday has drawn plenty of attention, but there were mitigating factors to his struggles.
A pair of walks, along with an infield single, left Marmol in a bases-loaded, two-out situation with the Cubs holding a 5-0 lead. After a walk scored the Phillies' only run, Marmol got Shane Victorino to ground out and end the game. Still, that didn't ease the nerves of the Cubs' fan base.
That said, manager Dale Sveum understood the situation in which Marmol found himself, in a game where he couldn't register a save.
"He has to understand about the fastball," Sveum said. "He's thrown 62 fastballs this year and given up one hit on it. He can't be afraid to throw that thing. He's not a guy that's going to paint corners, but you have to know you don't have to go to the slider all of the time. It's not getting hit and not a lot of contact when it's in the zone. You need to have confidence in it.
"He needs to pitch more. Most max-effort guys need to. I think the history of closers in non-save situations is not very good."
Kerry Wood threw a bullpen session in which he tossed 22 pitches with six sliders. Wood said that everything went well, and he appeared upbeat.
Sveum plans on easing him back into his setup role upon his return, meaning that Wood may pitch in the seventh inning, but as usual, Sveum promised to cross that bridge when the Cubs come to it.
Wood has been on the 15-day disabled list since April 14 with shoulder fatigue.
Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair has reached base in 19 straight games and is hitting .390 with five home runs overall.
Mike Radano is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.