BOSTON -- Ever since Clay Buchholz returned from the disabled list, the Red Sox have had a surplus of starters. So many, in fact, that Felix Doubront was temporarily exiled to the side to work on mechanics.
Ryan Dempster, meanwhile, was somewhat in limbo. Dempster pitched Tuesday night, but the club hadn't announced a future start for him with just eight games remaining in the regular season.
On Friday, however, the postseason picture for the rotation became a little clearer when the team announced that Dempster will shift to the bullpen for the remainder of the season and in the playoffs.
"I had a chance to meet with [Dempster Thursday] and walk through some of the scenarios that exist,'' said John Farrell, "and he is fully on board. He's a professional. He understands it. This gives him a chance to adjust his warmup routine. He's excited and looking forward to the role.''
Dempster is no stranger to bullpen duty, having served as the Chicago Cubs' closer from 2005-2007. He saved 87 games over three seasons.
His exact role is still to be determined, but Farrell doesn't view Dempster as an emergency starter-in-waiting.
"He won't be there to be a long guy,'' declared Farrell. "First and foremost, we have an opportunity to get him some appearances before the regular season's out. Inside that, we'll get a better read on his comfort and see how his stuff potentially plays out a little bit in one- or two-inning stints.
"If that's the case, we'll pick some spots as we go forward.''
It's unlikely Dempster will immediately be pushed into high-leverage situations in the eighth inning of close games.
"I think in fairness to him,'' said Farrell, "we'll probably look at some middle[-inning]-type opportunities first and then see where it goes from there.''
Farrell also believes Dempster's relief experience will help him in making the adjustment back to the bullpen.
"Compared to someone who hasn't [done it before],'' said Farrell, "it's a huge advantage. As is his attitude -- that's probably the biggest thing that stands out to me. He sees the reason for it, he understands the need to trim back for one starter, and he's looking forward to the opportunity.''
It will take some time to see how well Dempster adapts back to his former role, but the Sox have reason to believe he has the makeup and track record to make it work.
"I'll say this -- in games in which he's the starter, you see stuff in the first and second inning as being crisp,'' said Farrell, "and with the potential that [the quality of the stuff] ticks up from there . . . there's some intrigue with this. If there's the ability to uptick with later action to the stuff, and with the experience he's had in one-inning stints, this could turn out to be a very good thing.''