Ryan Dempster will not be part of the postseason rotation for the Red Sox. But the 36-year-old righthander could have a significant role coming out of the bullpen.
Dempster was dropped from the rotation on Friday and will pitch in relief for the remainder of the regular season and beyond.
Manager John Farrell was quick to say that Dempster won’t be a long reliever. The Sox see him having more value than that.
“I think this move with him, in my mind, there’s some intrigue with this,” Farrell said. “If there’s the ability to uptick with later action to the stuff and with the experience that he has, this could turn out to be a very good thing.”
Dempster was 8-9 with a 4.64 earned run average in 29 starts. He has pitched better of late but not enough to merit a postseason start.
Farrell hopes to break Dempster in with some low-pressure situations. His last relief appearance was in 2007.
“He is fully on board,” Farrell said. “He’s a professional and understands it . . . He sees the reason for it. He understands there was a need to trim back by one starter and he’s looking forward to the opportunity.”
From 2004-07, Dempster appeared in 220 games out of the bullpen for the Chicago Cubs and had 87 saves. He had a 1.43 WHIP and averaged 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
In 225 career relief appearances, Dempster has a 4.11 ERA and opponents have hit .245 against him. Dempster also pitched a perfect inning of relief for the Cubs in the 2007 Division Series against the Diamondbacks.
There is also statistical evidence that suggests this could be a significant move for the Red Sox.
Dempster has a 2.17 ERA in the first inning this year, by far his best of any inning. The first batter he faces in a game is hitting .120.
Dempster also has pitched well against lefthanders this season.
“I will say this: In games in which he’s started, you see stuff in the first and second inning as being crisp,” Farrell said.
Cameo for Victorino
Shane Victorino was in the original lineup then scratched after he tried taking batting practice in the cage. He entered as a defensive replacement in the ninth after sitting out two days with a sore right thumb.
The training staff fashioned a pad for Victorino to wrap around his thumb and he felt fine after trying to hit again. But Farrell wanted to give him one more day off.
“He tried to talk his way back into the lineup,” Farrell said. “But felt like it was probably the right thing to keep him out for another day.”
Victorino has been out of the lineup for five of the last 11 games to manage injuries. The outfielder has been dealing with an assortment of injuries over the course of the season, mainly his lower back and left hamstring.
“This isn’t something that’s going to keep him out for a long period of time,” Farrell said.
The time off because of the thumb injury has helped the other issues.
“It has to a certain extent. But they’ve become less and less even with everyday play,” Farrell said. “He’ll be fine.”
Accident in outfield
Toronto center fielder Colby Rasmus left the game before the bottom of the first inning after he was accidentally struck in the face by a ball thrown from the Toronto bullpen as he ran onto the field to start warming up.
Toronto moved right fielder Anthony Gose to center field, shifted Rajai Davis from left to right, and inserted rookie Kevin Pillar to play left and bat fourth in place of Rasmus.
Ellsbury on mend
Jacoby Ellsbury, who hasn’t played since Sept. 5 because of a fractured bone in his right foot, has started baseball workouts. Ellsbury hit balls off a tee and did some throwing before Friday’s game against Toronto. “A positive step. How quickly those activities will ramp up has yet to be determined,” Farrell said. The Sox hope Ellsbury can play before the end of the regular season on Sept. 29 . . . Former Red Sox reliever Mike Timlin will work the final five games of the regular season on NESN with Don Orsillo. The network has been using different analysts since Aug. 16 with Jerry Remy on leave.
Tickets on Tuesday
Tickets for any American League Division Series games at Fenway Park go on sale on Tuesday at noon. Go to redsox.com or call 888-REDSOX6 for tickets. There will be a four-ticket limit per fan. Ticket prices for the ALDS range from $45 to $170 and no tickets will be sold at the Fenway Park ticket office. The on-sale date for potential ALCS games have not yet been announced . . . Jon Lester picked up his 100th win, joining Smoky Joe Wood, Mel Parnell, Bob Stanley, and Roger Clemens as the only pitchers to win their first 100 games with the Sox . . . Lester was 4-0 with a 2.55 in six starts against Toronto this season . . . The Sox are 42-29 against the AL East and are 52-27 at home . . . When Will Middlebrooks stole second in the eighth inning, it gave the Sox 36 successful steals in a row. It’s the longest streak since Toronto had 38 straight in 1993 . . . Farrell is tentatively planning to use David Ortiz at first base for one of the games in Colorado next week . . . Gary DiSarcina, the manager of Triple A Pawtucket, has temporarily joined the coaching staff . . . Lefthander Felix Doubront, who starts Sunday, could be available out of the bullpen for the final weekend of the regular season. He is a long shot for the postseason roster.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.