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."