"They're a good team," said Dempster, speaking to reporters at Wrigley Field on Tuesday. "First of all, they're managed by one of the greatest managers (Joe Torre) ever, so you know they'll be prepared. They've gotten better since the last time we played them. They've got great pitching. They've got a really, really good bullpen. And then for me, as far as facing that lineup, they've added some hitters."
Among them are outfielder Manny Ramirez, one of the game's best hitters; a player whose stats – if not his behavior – could one day make him a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee, and third baseman Casey Blake. Neither player was with the Dodgers when the Cubs faced them in the regular season.
Ramirez rewarded the Dodgers rescuing him from the Boston Red Sox, a team he recently said he felt "unhappy" with for almost a decade, by batting .396 with 17 home runs and 50-plus RBIs.
Blake for his part was acquired by Los Angeles from the Cleveland Indians in late July. He batted .251 with 10 home runs and 12 doubles in 58 games.
"When you get Manny Ramirez on a team, it doesn't just (make) that one spot in the lineup a little better, it makes the whole lineup a little bit better because he makes the people around him, I think, a lot better hitters," Dempster said. "They're going to see maybe a little bit better pitches because you know he's hitting behind them.
"Watching him, he's as good a hitter, especially a right-handed hitter, as we've ever seen, especially in my generation," Dempster said of Ramirez.
Dempster knows the Dodgers are not a one-man show offensively, though. Outfielder Matt Kemp is one of the brightest young stars in all of baseball, in spite of his franchise record-setting 153 strikeouts this season. Kemp had another solid season that included a .290 average and 38 doubles in 155 games.
Andre Ethier, the Dodgers' right fielder, continued to impress in his third big league season. He had his best year to date, batting .305 with a career-high in home runs (20), doubles (38) and RBI (77).
Dempster described the Dodgers as having a "tough lineup." The Cubs' pitcher noted the resurgence of veteran Jeff Kent, the Dodgers' ageless second baseman who somehow seems to find the fountain of youth against Chicago pitching.
Kent missed much of September recovering from an operation to remove torn cartilage in his 40-year-old left knee. He batted .329 in 42 games in the second half, and had three multi-hit games against the Cubs in the regular season.
Kent may be limited in the division series and he already won't start Game 1 Wednesday (second baseman Blake DeWitt will go in his place), but Dempster noted that the Dodgers' lineup is plenty dangerous all-around.
"You've just got to be prepared and hopefully execute those pitches, and if you do that then you roll the dice and take your chances," he said.
The best-of-five series is set to begin Wednesday with a 5:35 p.m. (CDT) first pitch at Wrigley Field. Dempster will start Game 1 against Dodgers right-hander Derek Lowe. Cable network TBS will provide all television coverage of the series.
CUBS FINALIZE PLAYOFF ROSTER
CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs today announced their 25-man roster for the 2008 National League Division Series that begins tonight against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs will carry 11 pitchers and 14 position players during the National League Division Series:
Pitchers (11): LHP Neal Cotts, RHP Ryan Dempster, RHP Rich Harden, RHP Bob Howry, LHP Ted Lilly, RHP Carlos Marmol, RHP Jason Marquis, LHP Sean Marshall, RHP Jeff Samardzija, RHP Kerry Wood and RHP Carlos Zambrano
Catchers (2): Henry Blanco and Geovany Soto
Infielders (7): Ronny Cedeno, Mark DeRosa, Mike Fontenot, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Theriot and Daryle Ward
Outfielders (5): Jim Edmonds, Kosuke Fukudome, Reed Johnson, Felix Pie, Alfonso Soriano
The 2008 National League Division Series begins tonight at Wrigley Field at 5:37 p.m. and continues tomorrow with Game 2 at 8:37 p.m., also at Wrigley.
The series shifts to Los Angeles on Saturday with Game 3 at 7:07 p.m. Pacific Time (9:07 in Chicago) at Dodger Stadium. Game 4 (if necessary) is scheduled Sunday (time to be determined) and Game 5 (if necessary) would be played on Tuesday, October 7 at Wrigley Field (time to be determined).
--Cubs Media Relations