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Ryan Dempster armed and ready if called upon for bullpen duty

09.20.13 at 8:35 am ET
Ryan Dempster

Ryan Dempster

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?

“Yeah, I think I can,” said Dempster when asked if he could immediately become an effective reliever. “If 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.

“For 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. “Physically 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.

“What 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. “How 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.

“Like 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.

“I’ll do whatever role they ask me to pitch in,” Dempster said. “Whatever they ask me to do, I’m going to grab it by the horns and run with it.”

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