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I know that you can't do what you do without having some confidence, but realistically coming into this year, doing this, what kind of expectations did you have for how this year would go and kind of what you'd be able to do, doing this again?

RYAN DEMPSTER: Yeah, I think, you know, expectations of the team were so good that it made it almost believe in yourself a lot. Just coming into Spring Training and seeing how everybody was excited to be there, excited at the challenge of trying to go out and win a championship, that it kind of, as individuals, pumped us all up.

For me, I knew it was going to be a long road. It was going to be a tough season to go out there and try and make every start, just physically, from what I've been doing the past few years.

But I felt prepared for it. I felt like I worked really hard, physically. Mentally I felt like maybe I was a little bit smarter, had a little bit better idea of how to pitch, and just go out there and try and execute the task at hand, which is try and throw one pitch at a time.

Did I think I'd be sitting here getting ready to start Game 1 of the NLDS? Probably not, but I'm getting ready, and I'm confident, and just go out there, like I said, prepare like I have for every other start this year, and try and go out there and have a little bit of fun.

In Spring Training you talked about a World Series before you even had a day of workouts. Now that you're starting the postseason, how much responsibility do you take for making that come true?

RYAN DEMPSTER: Yeah, I think -- when I said that, it wasn't premeditated. It wasn't something I sat at home and said, this is what I'm going to say when I go to the park that day. It was something that when I got there and I saw everybody, it's something that I truly felt.

I'm sure the guys across the field tomorrow will feel the same way, as well as every other team in the playoffs. I think that's why you go to spring training. Your goal isn't to go out there and have a good year individually. I think if that's the case, then I feel bad for you. I think ultimately it's about winning a championship.

I knew the ramifications of saying something like that, but at the same time I believed it, and I wanted everybody in there to believe it, because we have the talent to do it, we have the ability to do it, and it just comes down to being healthy, being prepared, and going out. And then when you get that out of the way, it just comes down to executing and playing the same game that we've been playing all year. It seems to have been good enough all year, and if we can stick to what we do, then I don't see it not being a possibility.

Now, we've got to go out there and play the games and play hard. But I have the confidence in our team and I feel we have the ability to do something really special here that hasn't been done in a long time. Step one starts tomorrow, and we've got to take care of our own business.

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It's been quite a spell since you've seen the Dodgers. Can you talk about the addition of not only Manny, but some of the other additions and the overall lineup you'll face tomorrow night.

RYAN DEMPSTER: Absolutely. They're a good team. First of all, they're managed by one of the greatest managers 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. When you get Manny Ramirez on the team, it doesn't just add that one spot in the lineup a little bit better, it makes the whole lineup a little bit better because he makes the people around him, I think, a lot better hitters. 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 right handed hitter, as we've ever seen, especially in my generation as I've ever seen.

Then you look at the way Casey Blake's come over and the stuff he's done. Jeff Kent's back. Furcal's back. Andre Ethier is swinging the bat really well. It's a tough lineup. So you've just got to be prepared and hopefully execute those pitches, and if you can do that, then you roll the dice and take your chances.

What kind of intangibles has Lou Piniella brought to this organization the last couple years? And how does he communicate to you guys the expectations that he wants?

RYAN DEMPSTER: I think it depends. Different ways, some days than others. But I think Lou brings winning, which kind of was an intangible that was missing here. In '03 and '04 and even a little bit in '05 we were right there, but he kind of brought that winning atmosphere and that winning swagger to our team that was lacking here for a few years. I think he just expects us to be prepared, play the game, give 100 percent and play the game the right way.

With the talent that you have in the locker room, if you do that, your chances of winning are really, really good. So go out there and worry about executing, doing what we need to do, get a bunt down, move a runner over, make a pitch, throw strikes, and have fun. He always preaches that to us, have fun.

This is a great time. We're lucky now. There's going to be 22 teams going home and eight of us get to keep playing. So this is a lot of fun. This is what we all grow up dreaming of doing. So I think that's the biggest thing he preaches to us is have a good time, enjoy yourself, play loose and have a good time.

You'll be throwing to a catcher who technically is finishing up his rookie year, Geovany Soto, but who plays beyond his years. What's he done to win the respect of the veteran pitchers on this staff?

RYAN DEMPSTER: I'm a huge supporter of Geovany, not just as a player but as a person. He's been a tremendous teammate, a guy who when he come to the locker room, he's one of the first ones there, since day one of Spring Training. He has the ability to not just hit, but to catch and to catch at a very high level.

You know, I think it's pretty special to be able to handle five different starting pitchers and all those different relievers, and to catch the guys at the tail end of the bullpen with the lightning arms like Marmol and Wood. His ability to shut off at bats, whether good or bad. He might hit have a good at bat. He might hit a home run or strike out, but he's ready to go for the next inning when he's catching. It's rare. It's hard to find. I think that's why he's such an elite catcher in the game.

And to do it at such a young age, I'm sure he's picked Henry's brain all season. I think Blanco's been such a big reason why he's had the success he's had. He deserves the Rookie of the Year. He deserves to be up there in MVP talks, because especially here in Chicago with all the day games we played, the guy turned around and caught a no hitter and then turned around and caught a one hitter the next day. So I think that says a lot about Geo.

Mark DeRosa and Ryan Theriot were telling us in the clubhouse that you guys have had questions about getting back to the postseason, the 100 year thing and everything. Is there a sense of relief amongst you guys that you're finally here and that you have made the postseason again?

RYAN DEMPSTER: I don't think so. I don't think that the guys in the locker room really have any relief for getting there. I think the goal is bigger than that. It's not going to be easy. Playing a short series, too, anything can happen. Like I said, we're playing a really, really good team with a lot of experience and great players, great pitchers, great manager, so we have a job ahead of us. But I think that getting swept up in the playoffs last year left a sour taste in our mouth, and I think that's why guys were so driven to get back there.

We're glad to be back. To win back to back Division Championships is not an easy thing to do. It hasn't been done here in a long time, and hopefully we can continue this. But I think the general consensus of our team is we want more than that. I think for the first time in a long time that feeling hasn't been there, and it's there this year.

The Cubs have had to do a lot of extracurricular stuff over the years. How do you guys deal with it? Just ignore it or laugh at it? It's unending it seems like.

RYAN DEMPSTER: Yeah, I've been here for five years now. It's a very interesting place to play. It's great to know that when you come to the ballpark on a Tuesday afternoon or Saturday afternoon, it doesn't matter who you're playing, there's going to be 41,000 fans that are cheering for you, pulling for you.

You know, it's a big media market. There's a lot that goes on. There's a lot of stuff in the clubhouse, on the field, small confines, but I think in a way that's kind of brought this team especially because this team is very similar to last year's team, with a couple pieces here and there. It's almost brought us a little bit closer together.

It's made for a tighter group of guys, and almost, in a way, like a little bit of a family. And hopefully we can be there, everybody be behind each other, and go out there we have fun with it. When everybody is not around, we enjoy it. But we like to be out there together and all pulling for each other and trying to accomplish the same goals.

You realize it's part of the job, you've got to do what you've got to do, but ultimately it just comes down to going out and performing on the field.

You and Wrigley Field have been a great combination this year. What is it about playing here? What is the home field advantage on the field?

RYAN DEMPSTER: I said earlier it was Tom Helman's cooking, our clubhouse guy (laughter). He makes a mean omelette in the morning that gets me going.

No, I don't know. It's a great place to pitch. I know people talk about it being a little bit of a smaller ballpark and the wind blowing out. But I like the mound, I like the backdrop. It's comfortable obviously when you're in your own home ballpark and you've got the fans behind you. For whatever reason, things have worked out numbers wise as far as wins at home. I feel like I've thrown just as good on the road as at home, but just things have kind of fallen into place here at home, and for all of us.

As a team we had a pretty remarkable record at home, and hopefully we can just keep that going here through the postseason.

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