BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox have the reliable starter they sought in Ryan Dempster.
He’s pitched at least 200 innings in four of the past five seasons, impressive to General Manager Ben Cherington but not so special to Dempster.
“That’s your responsibility as a starting pitcher in the big leagues,” Dempster said Wednesday at a news conference after his $26.5 million, two-year deal was finalized. “The norm used to be 300 and somehow we worked it down to like 200. Even 180 seems to suffice.”
He said he works hard to stay in shape “so that I can take on that workload.”
Boston had just one starter reach the 200-mark this year, with Jon Lester pitching 205 1⁄3 innings.
“It’s important,” Cherington said. “Ryan’s got a history of being very effective and a really good pitcher.
The consistency he’s shown in taking the ball every fifth day was important to us. I think as a team when you start having to fill in for guys, if we don’t have a reliable rotation and you start filling in with guys from down below or guys from the bullpen or whatever, it’s not so much that move but you’ve inevitably weakened another area of your team.”
Dempster gets $13.25 million a year and would earn an additional $250,000 each season for pitching 190 innings.
“We went into this offseason wanting to add a proven starter to the rotation, someone that has a history of success, reliability and someone who we thought would embrace coming to Boston and everything that comes with pitching and playing in Boston, on and off the field,” Cherington said. “We think Ryan is the perfect fit for that.”
The 35-year-old right-hander adds experience to a rotation that underachieved this year as the Red Sox went 69-93 and finished last in the AL East in their only season under Manager Bobby Valentine.
He was fired and replaced by John Farrell.
“Obviously there’s a lot of room to go up,” Dempster said. “Ben and the organization have done an incredible job of adding a lot of really good players and good baseball guys. So we’re just going to go into spring training and work as hard as we can and go out there every day and leave it all on the field and play as hard as we can to get the best out of each other.”
Lester and Clay Buchholz had disappointing years and John Lackey returns after missing the season following elbow-ligament replacement surgery. Left-hander Felix Doubront was in the rotation for most of the season.
Dempster reached the major leagues in 1998 with the Florida Marlins and has a 124-124 record with a 4.33 ERA. A Canadian, he said he is undecided about playing in the World Baseball Classic.
But he is confident the Red Sox can reach the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
“That’s why we play,” he said. “The money and things like that in baseball are great. But I came here because I believe this team has a chance of winning as much as anybody else. I’ve always believed that should be your mentality going into any season. Because it’s proven day in, day out every team’s going to win 50 games, every team’s going to lose 50 games. It’s what you do with the other 62 that matter.”
He went 12-8 with a 3.38 ERA this year. After starting 5-5 with a 2.25 ERA in his ninth season with the Chicago Cubs, he was traded to the Texas Rangers and went 7-3 with a 5.03 ERA. That was his first stint in the American League.
“It’s going to be a little bit different not being able to hit,” he joked. “They’re going to miss my bat in the lineup, but we’ll get through that.”