Cubs closer Ryan Dempster agreed yesterday to a three-year, $15.5 million contract extension through the 2008 season.

Dempster has 33 saves in 35 chances and is 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA in 57 relief appearances. He had converted 19 straight save opportunities, tying a single-season team record, and his 211/3 consecutive scoreless innings were the longest streak by a Cubs reliever since 1989.

"Obviously, it's been one of those things that you're really happy about," Dempster said. "It shows a lot of respect for me and I have a lot of respect for the way they've handled me. I'm glad to be here for three more years. Hopefully, I can help them reach their goals and get to the World Series."

Dempster had worked primarily as a starter for the Marlins and Reds before surgery on his right elbow in 2003. He signed with the Cubs as a free agent last year and was 1-1 and a 3.92 ERA.

* CARDS' ROTATION: Jason Marquis started yesterday for the Cardinals instead of 16-game winner Jeff Suppan, a decision that may or may not affect the team's playoff rotation.

Manager Tony La Russa said he was going with Marquis against the Reds in the next-to-last game of the season "because we want to beat Cincinnati and he's pitched better against Cincinnati." He said Suppan would be ready this weekend in case one of his starters gets knocked out early, but added he also wanted to get his bullpen ready for the postseason.

Chris Carpenter, Mark Mulder and Matt Morris likely will start for the Cardinals in their first three playoff games.

-- From News Services

Chicago reliever Ryan Dempster, right, agreed to a three-year, $15.5 million contract extension through 2008.