For the first time since the Cubs captured the 2008 National League Central Division title, Ryan Dempster is headed to the postseason.
The Boston Red Sox, hot on the heels on a dismal last-place finish in the division last year with a record of 69-93, bounced back this season in a dramatic fashion, going from worst-to-first.
Dempster, who is in his first season in Boston, was a crucial part of the Cubs’ pitching staff for nine years – in which he not only led the pitchers on the field, but contributed an invaluable veteran presence in the clubhouse, something that has been a day-and-night difference for this year’s Red Sox club.
The 36-year old has posted an 8-9 record with an ERA of 4.64 in 29 starts for manager John Farrell, who is in the midst of candidates vying for American League Manager of the Year.
However, with the postseason approaching rapidly, Dempster will now find himself in a role he hasn’t filled in several years; providing solid relief out of the bullpen. Farrell announced yesterday that the right-hander will work out of the bullpen for the remainder of the regular season, likely in anticipation of providing a similar service during the postseason.
“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,” Dempster told WEE.com‘s Rob Bradford. “I’ve been there before. It’s fun. It’s a totally different animal.”
With this in mind, we’re going to take a look at how the longtime veteran faired as a reliever during his time with Chicago and what this might mean for the Red Sox title aspirations in 2013.
From 2004 to 2007, Dempster served the Cubs in a relief role, before being converted to a starter during the 2008 season, a role which is has continued into 2013 with the Florida Marlins, Cincinnati Reds, Cubs, Texas Rangers and most recently, the Red Sox.
In the 2005 campaign, Dempster, or as some Cubs fans began to call him, ‘Dumpster’ put together a fairly impressive campaign, going 5-3 with a 3.13 ERA, finishing 53 games en route to a team-high 33 saves.
The next season was a forgettable one for the Cubs right-hander, as he went 1-9 and saw his earned run average balloon to 4.80, despite finished 64 games – one of the highest totals in the National League. After one more season in the bullpen where he went 2-7 with a 4.73 ERA, the Chicago front office made the call to convert Dempster back into a starting pitcher, the same role he filled earlier in his career.
He saw a rejuvenation after making the switch, and fresh breaths of life were seen in a quickly declining player. Just two short seasons later, he finished sixth in the Cy Young voting in the National League and was named to the NL All-Star team, going 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA for Chicago.
So what exactly will Boston get from Dempster in a relief role? That remains to be seen. As he himself mentioned, relief work is a whole different animal, and must be approached with that in mind. Come the postseason, Red Sox Nation will either be praising the work of yet-another one of their bearded cogs in their machine or will be screaming for his head on a plate.
We know how you feel, Beantown. We know how you feel.