LOS ANGELES — Ryan Dempster finished his five-game suspension from Major League Baseball Sunday by sitting in the stands and watching the Red Sox play the Dodgers.
Under the rules, Dempster was allowed to work out before the game but could not be in the dugout or clubhouse during the game.
So he showered, dressed, and went to look for a seat among the fans.
“I’ll go find a seat somewhere and play ‘Where’s Waldo?’ I like being out there with the fans,” he said.
Dempster was suspended for intentionally throwing at Alex Rodriguez at Fenway Park Aug. 18. He is eligible to play Tuesday, but the Red Sox pushed him back to Friday’s game against the White Sox.
Dempster threw 80 pitches in the bullpen Saturday and will throw another bullpen session Tuesday.
“I’ll be there ready to go,” he said. “I felt really good [Saturday] and I’ll be as prepared as I can be to go out there and do my job.”
While Dempster regrets being suspended, he believes the layoff will ultimately prove helpful to him.
“My arm’s probably benefitting from it. There’s a silver lining in everything,” he said. “I’m not 26 any more, I’m 36. I’m sure the rest is good for my arm.
“Especially late in the season it can be beneficial . . . It’s not something I want. I want to go out there and do my job. But I feel like it can help.”
Dempster is 6-9 with a 4.77 earned run average in 25 starts. The reliability has been what the Sox hoped. Dempster has made the second-most starts and thrown the third-most innings on the team. But the production has been lacking.
Dempster is 1-1 with a 6.81 ERA in his last seven starts. The Red Sox won six of those games, but Dempster knows he has to be sharper.
“Poor location of my pitches. Been working on trying to fix that,” Dempster said. “Repeat as much as possible, be as consistent with pounding the ball down [in the strike zone]. I’ve been making a lot of good pitches but I’m making a lot of bad pitches, too, in big situations.”
With Clay Buchholz having started a minor league rehabilitation assignment, Dempster needs to pitch well to keep his spot in the rotation. Because he has 225 games of relief experience [although none since 2007], he could be the starter shifted to the bullpen once Buchholz returns.
“I have to do my job and do a better job than I’ve been doing the last few times out,” he said. “I haven’t been throwing the ball the way I’m capable of doing that. I’m working hard to do that.”
David Ortiz said last week that hitting Rodriguez was the wrong thing to do because it appeared to motivate the Yankees in a game the Red Sox ended up losing. Ortiz’s relatively innocuous comments made news nationally because he appeared to be criticizing a teammate. But Dempster said he took no offense.
“For sure. He has his opinion and he’s right to every bit of his opinion,” Dempster said. “This is his team. I’m sure he was a little bit frustrated with how everything happened and that’s OK, man. . . . We joked about it and we’re totally cool.”
Dempster hasn’t pitched in the postseason since 2008. He was with the Rangers last season when they lost the one-game wild-card playoff game.
Being in the pennant race with the Red Sox has energized him.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s exciting. This is what every player when the season starts you hope you’re doing, is that come September you’re playing for something and not playing to be a spoiler.”
“I’m enjoying every minute and I think everyone here is really excited about it. Me personally, I love this. That’s what we play for and why I came here.”
The Red Sox activated lefthander Matt Thornton from the disabled list. He had been out since Aug. 5 with a strained oblique muscle on his left side.
Thornton has pitched in 10 games since being obtained from the White Sox on July 12. Righthander Brayan Villarreal was optioned to Triple A Pawtucket.
Villarreal appeared in one game, at San Francisco last Tuesday, and threw a four-pitch walk to force in the winning run in the ninth inning.
The Red Sox now have four lefthanders in their seven-man bullpen, an unusual arrangement. That will change Sunday when rosters expand.
“Just the fact we get Thornton back active to us, that’s the biggest bonus in this right now,” manager John Farrell said.
Lefty Craig Breslow has actually pitched much better against righthanders (.216 with a .577 OPS) than he has against lefthanders (.310 with an .834 OPS), so the imbalance can be managed over the next five games.
Farrell also said he trusts rookie righthander Brandon Workman in late-inning situations if Junichi Tazawa is not available.
On the occasion of his 300th career start, Jake Peavy donated $300 for each strikeout in the game [for both teams] to the Jimmy Fund in memory of his grandmother, Dama Lolley, and former Padres bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds, a close friend. Both died of cancer.
Peavy’s donation ($3,600 — 12 strikeouts, he had five) will come as part of the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon Tuesday and Wednesday.
Ortiz was out of the lineup for the second consecutive day as Farrell stayed with Mike Napoli at first base. It paid off. Napoli went 2 for 4 with three RBIs and a mammoth home run in the ninth.
Part of the reason was that Napoli looked good at the plate on Saturday, collecting three hits and driving in a run. Farrell also liked the idea of getting Ortiz three days off in a row before the final 30 of the season.
“Going forward our main guys are going to be leaned on daily as we get through the rest of the schedule and it was a chance to balance that out,” Farrell said.
Kruk misses game
ESPN’s John Kruk did not announce the game after being taken out of the press box on a stretcher while sitting up. He was conscious and the network later announced he was dizzy and dehydrated. Kruk, 52, had stable vital signs according to ESPN . . . Former Red Sox righthander Josh Beckett, out for the season after undergoing surgery to correct nerve irritation, was at the ballpark over the weekend. Beckett was 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA in eight starts before doctors determined he needed to have a rib removed to solve a problem that caused numbness in his right arm. He said he should be ready for next season . . . The Red Sox players spent time before the game watching the championship game of the Little League World Series with great interest . . . Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig had Ortiz sign a bat for him . . . Paul Stanley of the glam-rock group Kiss performed the national anthem. He was not in makeup.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.