MESA, Ariz. – Ryan Dempster had a strong start with spring training winding down.
Dempster, the Cubs' opening day starter, allowed one earned run and four hits in 4 2/3 innings before a Los Angeles Dodgers split squad rallied for a 6-3 win over Chicago on Friday.
Dempster feels as if the Cubs' rotation with Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, Chris Volstad and Paul Maholm can be one of the better staffs in the league.
"I think we have the potential to do really well," he said. "But we have to back it up. We have a chance to really push each other to do well and get the best out of each other."
Ian Stewart hit a fourth-inning solo home run off Fernando Nieve and Alfonso Soriano had an RBI double in the eighth inning.
Nieve, who was a non-roster invitee reassigned on March 24, allowed one earned run and four hits in four innings. He struck out two and walked one.
The Dodgers scored three runs in the seventh, keyed by Dee Gordon's two-run triple off reliever Manuel Corpas (0-1).
It was the continuation of a great spring for the Dodgers' shortstop, who is hitting .381 with 10 steals. He has a hit in seven of his past eight games.
The hope is to carry that approach to the plate into the regular season with less than a week before opening day.
"You can't really control it," Gordon said. "You just try to keep the same rhythm and timing and hopefully that leads to a good swing on the ball. "
Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney, who is batting .419 in the spring, is also ready for the start of the regular season.
"I had a real confidence coming into spring and you want to build on that every day," Barney said. "I think I've done that heading toward opening day."
Cubs manager Dale Sveum believes the team has a different player than the one he faced in the opposing dugout as a coach for the Brewers last season.
"From looking on the other side of the fence last year, to me he's a different person than what I saw playing against him," Sveum said. "His strength, the way he's pulling the ball, the way he's letting the bat go, you don't see that same guy flaying stuff to right field. He's driving the ball consistently. He's hitting velocity. He's doing a really good job."
Barney, who hit .276 with two home runs and 43 RBIs in 143 games, said there is a different comfort level this spring after battling for a spot last season when he won the job.
"It was definitely different because I was fighting to just get on the team," Barney said. "It is easier to get into a routine and it was easier to time all your workouts. Spring training is about confidence and I think I've done a good job of building on it."
Notes: Cubs reliever Frankie de la Cruz is still in the big league camp, but he is pitching down the road at the club's minor league complex. ... Sveum suggested before the game that the Cubs' lineup from Friday could be very similar to the one on opening day. ... Cubs reliever Kerry Wood is expected to make one more appearance before the regular season.