Ryan Dempster armed and ready if called upon for bullpen duty

Rob Bradford
September 20, 2013 - 4:35 am

No definitive decision has been made, but Ryan Dempster is ready whenever it is. The pitcher knows there is a distinct possibility his next role will be that of a postseason reliever, a life he hasn'€™t lived since closing for the Cubs in 2007. But diving into the role is one thing. Succeeding is another. So, having served as nothing but a starting pitcher for his last 189 appearances, does he think such a transition can work? '€œYeah, I think I can,'€ said Dempster when asked if he could immediately become an effective reliever. '€œIf I was asked to go down there I could help us out in a big way. I have confidence in my ability, confidence in the mental side of it. I'€™ve been there before. It'€™s fun. It'€™s a totally different animal.'€ The Red Sox believe that if such an opportunity presents itself, Dempster could very well be solution in a late-inning relief role. The 36-year-old has been tremendously effective against left-handed hitters this season, limiting that side of the plate to a .232 batting average (compared to .282 from the right side). The number dips down to .193 against lefties when looking at just the first inning. And then there's this: he'€™s done it before. For his career, Dempster has relieved 225 times, totaling 87 saves in 102 opportunities. '€œFor sure. I think that'€™s a very valid point. Probably more the nuances of it rather than the physicality of it,'€ he said when asked if having relieved before could help him this time around. '€œPhysically your body can handle whatever. But it'€™s being ready every day, the things you have to do. Getting ready throughout the game. Keeping your arm fresh, things like that. When you'€™re a starter you go out there and you get your fastball ready, you get your slider ready, you get your cutter ready. You do all these things, where as a reliever you really focus on one or two pitches ready. If you have time you get a third one ready, but you better go in there with two pitches ready.'€ Another adjustment Dempster would have to make is filling a role he hasn'€™t experienced since his rookie season in 1998, that of a set-up man. While the righty has confidence in understanding the preparation of a relief pitcher (it used to take him about 15 pitches to get ready as the Cubs'€™ closer), there is a process that goes into being dropped into certain situations. '€œWhat happens in those late innings, as a reliever you have to pay attention throughout the game because you'€™re going to be facing guys in their fourth at-bat,'€ Dempster said. '€œHow have we pitched them? What'€™s been going on there? Is he chasing? Is he taking? Those are things as a starter, guys first or second at-bats guys aren'€™t locked in yet, but when they face a reliever they'€™re locked in right away. '€œLike it or not, in the ninth inning of any close game you'€™re going to get a guy'€™s toughest at-bats. Guys give away at-bats sometimes in a game, just as pitchers give away pitches. We don'€™t execute every pitch like we should. You have to expect every time in the late innings you'€™re getting guys'€™ best at-bats, probably because it'€™s their last at-bats of the game.'€ It'€™s a life he could very well find himself leading in the not-too-distant future. '€œI'€™ll do whatever role they ask me to pitch in,'€ Dempster said. '€œWhatever they ask me to do, I'€™m going to grab it by the horns and run with it.'€