BOSTON – Ryan Dempster returned from his MLB-enforced hiatus – courtesy of a five-game suspension after hitting Alex Rodriguez with a pitch on Aug. 18 – to earn the win as the Red Sox beat the White Sox, 4-3, Friday night in the first of their three-game series at Fenway Park.
Dempster kept the White Sox hitless until the fifth inning when Paul Konerko led off with a double. But, after the first two batters of the game reached on walks on a total of 13 pitches, it appeared Dempster may have been in for a shaky outing.
But, one of the things he worked on during his time off was keeping the ball down and away to right-handed hitters.
“That’s vital for a guy like me who doesn't throw really hard,” Dempster said. “I can’t have a lot of misses over the plate. So just worked on the side, both in LA and more back home to just really try and repeat that as much as possible and make that consistent pitch for me.”
That work paid nearly immediate dividends. With runners on second and third and no outs, Dempster threw a low and away 90-mph fastball as the first pitch to Alexi Ramirez, who bit on the pitch and grounded into a double play. Dempster struck out Adam Dunn, the next batter, to get out of the inning on 20 pitches.
After the two walks Dempster retired the next 11 batters before Konerko’s double in the fifth. He went 6 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on five hits and three walks with five strikeouts. He improved to 7-9 with a 4.75 ERA.
“When you’re not playing and you’re not injured it’s not a fun thing,” Dempster said. “So I was glad I was able to get out there and just pitch a little bit better and give us a chance to win a ball game.
“I felt good. My body felt good. My arm felt good. I worked hard in the time off I had to be as ready as possible and got good results because of it.”
“I thought the biggest pitch he made of the night was the groundball doubleplay to Ramirez in the first,” said manager John Farrell. “It starts out with a couple of walks, things had a chance to build an inning against him. He shuts it out right there and gets a strikeout to Dunn. And then he settled in. He worked around a couple of lead-off base hits in the middle innings and felt like he had good secondary stuff. Both his split and slider were good tonight until you could see a little bit in that seventh inning [is where it started] to come to an end for him. But a solid start on his part.”
With the impending return of Clay Buchholz, it is possible, if not likely, Dempster will go to the bullpen. Dempster, though, prefers to wait on that judgment.
“I’m just going to try and do my job the best I can,” he said. “And we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”