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Major League Notebook: Dempster, Cubs get going

Associated Press
The baseball notebook …
CHICAGO ó On the very first day of spring training, Ryan Dempster made a bold statement.
“I think we will win the World Series. I really do,” he said back in February, under a sunny Arizona sky.
Now, the Chicago Cubs’ closer-turned-starter has a chance to back it up. The playoffs begin, with the Los Angeles Dodgers coming to visit Wrigley Field on Wednesday.
Dempster and the Cubs will try to take that first step toward ending a 100-year championship drought against a Dodgers team they beat five of seven times this year ó before Manny Ramirez brought his act to L.A.
Dempster will face Derek Lowe in Game 1 of the first round, with emotional ace Carlos Zambrano going against Chad Billingsley in Game 2. Then the best-of-5 series shifts to Dodger Stadium.
CONFIDENT RAYS
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. ó Playoff novices or not, the Tampa Bay Rays see no reason why they can’t keep winning.
“When you believe, and you’ve got the talent to do it,” veteran designated hitter Cliff Floyd said, “anything can happen.”
The surprising AL East champions won 97 games, 31 more than a year ago when they were the team formerly known as the perennial last-place Devil Rays, and finished with the worst record in the majors.
The Rays, who’ve done little in spectacular fashion other than win at an amazingly consistent rate to become baseball’s feel-good story of the year, begin their first postseason appearance Thursday against either the Minnesota Twins or Chicago White Sox.
“Believe it or not, I kept on saying last year we had something special,” first baseman Carlos Pena said.
“Even though we were in last place and had a record that we weren’t really happy with, I could just see in this clubhouse something special. I kept saying it, and I’m sure people thought I was just saying that. But look at this.”
RED SOX
BOSTON ó Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew took batting practice on an overcast day at Fenway Park. When they were done, the outlook for Boston’s two injured hitters was brighter.Both could be ready for Wednesday night’s opener of the AL division series against the Los Angeles Angels.
The Red Sox can use the power that Lowell and Drew bring to the plate and that Josh Beckett, recovering from an injured side muscle, uncorks from the mound, but think they have enough depth without them.
YANKEES
NEW YORK ó Joe Girardi rounded the corner, bounded into the Yankees clubhouse and began dragging a big garbage can back to the manager’s office.
A discouraging season, filled with injuries and disappointments, was going in the trash. For the first time since 1993, the few Yankees who hadn’t already done so spent Monday clearing out their lockers and heading home while baseball pressed on toward the playoffs.
“We’re all disappointed,” Girardi said, matter of factly. “I’m a firm believer this organization is going to do everything it can to get us back in the Fall Classic next year.”
With a major league-high payroll that was $209 million on opening day, the Yankees surely didn’t expect their run of 13 consecutive playoff appearances to end.
This wasn’t how the script was supposed to go.
“We went to spring training, I expected to be playing Wednesday or Thursday,” added Girardi, whose first season in charge instead finished with a meaningless doubleheader Sunday in Boston. “That did not happen. That’s extremely frustrating.”
LOHSE
ST. LOUIS ó Pitcher Kyle Lohse and the St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to a $41 million, four-year contract.
Lohse was 15-6 with a 3.78 ERA this season and led the staff with 200 innings. He agreed to a $4.25 million, one-year contract on March 14.
RIVERA
NEW YORK ó Yankees closer Mariano Rivera will have offseason surgery on his sore right shoulder but should be ready to throw by spring training.
Manager Joe Girardi said Monday that the procedure will shave down calcification of the A.C. joint on the top of Rivera’s shoulder.

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