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Red Sox reach 2-year, $26.5 million deal with Dempster

Ryan Dempster moved from the Cubs to the Rangers last season.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Ryan Dempster moved from the Cubs to the Rangers last season.

The Red Sox have their pitcher.

Just a couple of hours after Ben Cherington said the Sox “were engaged” with a free-agent pitcher and after the Globe reported Thursday morning that a deal was close, the Red Sox agreed to terms with veteran Ryan Dempster on a 2-year, $26.5 million deal.

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The deal, first reported by Fox Sports, is pending a physical.

Two general managers had said Thursday morning that they thought the Red Sox would land Dempster and were willing to go a third year either through an option or straight deal. All indications are they didn’t have to go to a third year. Dempster had turned the Red Sox down on a 2-year, $25 million deal last week.

Now comes the issue of how will Dempster do in the American League?

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The Angels ate him up in three starts. He allowed nine hits and eight runs in 4-2/3 innings in one start; six hits and five runs over 3-1/3 innings in another; and seven hits and four runs in 5-2/3 innings in a third.

The Yankees beat him up for nine hits and eight runs over six innings. The A’s got him for six hits and five runs over three innings.

The feeling is Dempster will have more problems against good American League lineups.

“The Red Sox are aware of this, and will certainly try to manage who he pitches against if possible,” one National League general manager said.

The Sox needed someone who could give them between 180 and 200 innings and Dempster fits that.

Sox general manager Ben Cherington said at a press conference Thursday to announce Shane Victorino’s signing, “We’re engaged on a pitcher, but that’s all I can say at this point. We’re still working on a number of things.”

Cherington added, “We feel we’re further ahead than we were when we left Nashville. We’re talking to free agents and working through some trade options. We’re not ready to comment on any specific player or trade scenario. We’re working on a number of things. We’ll see where it leads us.”

Asked about obtaining a pitcher who can throw 200 innings, Cherington said, “We struggled in that area for different reasons. One of the things we’ve been lacking is reliability and someone who can be a reliable and durable part of the rotation. That is something that we’ve focused on this offseason and haven’t executed anything yet. Hopefully we can do that. We feel like we need to go into 2013 with more starting pitching depth we have right now. Hopefully we’ll be able to add somebody.”

Dempster pitched two splendid games against the Red Sox last season, allowing no earned runs over 13-2/3 innings.

Is Dempster worth it?

The way he pitched with the Cubs last season, yes. The way he pitched for the Rangers after being traded, no.

He was 5-5 with a 2.25 ERA for the Cubs and was truly an ace. He was 7-3 with a 5.09 ERA for the Rangers in 12 starts.

The Rangers have not made a big effort to re-sign him.

Some scouts believe he’s a National League pitcher. His interleague record (and he’s only spent a half-season of his career in the AL) is 11-15 with a 4.63 ERA and a 1.465 WHIP.

Yet he’s a workhorse, who for four straight years pitched 200 or more innings for the Cubs. Previous to that, he threw 200-plus innings for the Marlins for three straight years.

He’ll be 36 May 3, which means he’ll pitch the majority of the season at that age. Pitchers can pitch with age. Hiroki Kuroda is doing swell at 38. Andy Pettitte is still good at 40.

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