Ryan Dempster was selected Monday by Chicago Cubs manager Mike Quade to start the season opener against Pittsburgh on April 1.
Dempster was picked over right-hander Carlos Zambrano, who has started the last six openers for the Cubs. Zambrano will start the second game of the season followed by Matt Garza in Game 3. The Cubs obtained Garza during the offseason from Tampa Bay.
"We know they are 1, 2 and 3," Quade said. "I still say you can't split them. They're all going to need to pitch well. I looked at matchups. It's opening day, OK, and it's a big deal. But I looked at matchups going into Milwaukee, so on and so forth. There's 100 reasons that go into this."
Zambrano has a 9-5 record with a 3.19 ERA at Milwaukee's Miller Park. The Cubs open a series there April 8, and Zambrano will be scheduled to pitch that game. Dempster will miss the Milwaukee series if the rotation holds.
Quade said he called all three pitchers into his office, and that all were in accord with the decision. Earlier in spring training, Quade said he would wait as long as possible to pick his opening day starter.
Dempster, who has been both a reliever and a starter for the Cubs since 2004, was 15-12 with a 3.85 ERA last season. Zambrano was 11-6 with a 3.33 ERA and went 8-0 over his final 11 starts after spending part of the season on the restricted list while getting treatment for anger management. Garza was a 15-game winner for the Rays a year.
Zambrano gave up eight runs and six hits in 1 1-3 innings during last year's opener against Atlanta. Zambrano started the previous six opening days for Chicago, going 1-2 with a 6.99 ERA.
Dempster started Florida's 2001 and 2002 openers.
"To be honest with you, I never really thought about it a whole lot until today," he said. "It's a humbling feeling to go out there. It could have been any one of the three guys everybody's been talking about. Z's started the last six years. So it feels weird to go out there and do that.
Garza said the decision was fine with him.
"I honestly felt that I didn't even deserve to up there with those two guys," he said. "They both have 10-plus years, and I'm still trying to get my fourth. Out of total respect, I think it's the way it should be set."