Dempster pulls postseason bullpen duty

Ryan Dempster will shift from the starting rotation to the bullpen
for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs.

Jan-Christian Sorensen Contributing Writer

Ryan Dempster is the odd man out.

On Friday, Red Sox manager John Farrell said the 36-year-old righthander will be shifted out to the bullpen for the rest of the regular season and playoffs.

It’s a role that Dempster — 8-9 with a 4.64 ERA in 29 games this season — has played before: from 2005 through ’07 he saved 85 games for the Chicago Cubs out of the ‘pen. Overall, he’s compiled a 4.11 ERA in 225 relief appearances over his 16-year career.

In 2005, he started six games for the Cubbies before replacing LaTroy Hawkins as closer and went on to notch 33 saves in 35 opportunities.

But that was both a younger man and a long time ago.

Still, Farrell doesn’t view it as a demotion. He believes Dempster’s experience in the relief trenches recommends him to the role, calling both his bullpen background and attitude toward the move a huge advantage for the team.

“He sees the reason for it, understands there was a need to trim back by one starter and he’s looking forward to the opportunity,” said Farrell.

It could prove to be a canny move by the Red Sox skipper. While Dempster has gotten into some trouble later in his starts this season, he boasts a 2.17 ERA with 32 strikeouts in his 29 first innings in 2013, and his lively splitter out of the 'pen could prove to be a valuable weapon in critical spots late in games.

“Dempster won’t be there to be the long guy,” Farrell said. “First and foremost, we have an opportunity to get some appearances before the regular season finishes out. Inside that, we’ll have a better read on his comfort, see how his stuff potentially plays up a little bit in one- or two-innings stints and if that’s the case, we’ll pick our spots as we move forward.”

With Boston’s four-man rotation for the postseason already clear — aside from the order in which they appear, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey and Jake Peavy will be the starters — Dempster was one of the expendables.

Ditto lefthander Felix Doubront, who is on tap to make his final regular-season start on Sunday at Fenway against R.A. Dickey, but will, in all likelihood, soon join Dempster in the bullpen.

Dempster’s a solid team citizen and he’ll happily accept whatever job Farrell assigns him if it means getting closer to that World Series ring that’s been eluding since he toed his first major league mound in 1998.

Eleven years ago, Dempster just missed a chance to claim the Commissioner’s Trophy. After pitching for the then-Florida Marlins for four seasons, he was traded in mid-July of 2002 to the Cincinnati Reds. The Marlins went on to win the World Series against the Yankees the next year, exacting a small measure of vengeance on behalf of Tim Wakefield.

Dempster signed with the Cubs in 2004, where the closest he got to postseason glory in eight-plus seasons was two division-series appearances in 2007 and ’08, going 0-1 with a 6.35 ERA.

Last year he was traded to Texas at the deadline and went 7-3 with a 5.09 ERA in 12 games but saw another opportunity to grab the brass ring evaporate when the Rangers fell to Baltimore 5-1 in the one-game wild-card playoff.

Twitter: @jan_doh