BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox have the reliable starter they sought, signing right-hander Ryan Dempster to a two-year contract.
He’s pitched at least 200 innings in four of the past five seasons, impressive to general manager Ben Cherington but, perhaps, not so special to Dempster.
“That’s your responsibility as a starting pitcher in the big leagues,” he said Wednesday at a news conference where his signing was announced. “The norm used to be 300 and somehow we worked it down to like 200. Even 180 seems to suffice.”
But, he said, he works hard to stay in shape “so that I can take on that workload.”
The team announced the signing six days after two people familiar with the negotiations said Dempster had agreed to a $26.5 million deal.
“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.”
Dempster, 35, adds experience to a rotation that underachieved last season when the Red Sox went 69-93 and finished last in the AL East in their only season under manager Bobby Valentine, who was fired and replaced by John Farrell.
“What happened last year is last year,” Dempster said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
Jon 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 went 12-8 with a 3.38 ERA this year. He was 5-5 with a 2.25 ERA in his ninth season with the Chicago Cubs. He was traded to the Texas Rangers where he went 7-3 with a 5.03 ERA. That was his first taste of pitching in the American League, full time.
“It’s going to be a little bit different not being able to hit, obviously” with a designated hitter in the American League, he joked. “They’re going to miss my bat in the lineup, but we’ll get through that.”
Dempster, who reached the majors in 1998 with the Florida Marlins, has a career 124-124 mark with a 4.33 ERA.