Dempster switching from rotation to bullpen
Veteran righty could become late-inning option to set up Uehara
BOSTON -- Ryan Dempster is heading to the bullpen.
Red Sox manager John Farrell announced Friday that Dempster, who has a 4.64 ERA in 29 starts this season, will pitch out of the 'pen for the remainder of the season. With Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy, John Lackey and Felix Doubront also in the rotation, there was no longer a need for a sixth starter. Farrell said Doubront could join Dempster in the bullpen after his scheduled start Sunday.
With his high strikeout rate (8.3 per nine innings) and a devastating splitter that can present ground balls almost on cue, Dempster makes for an intriguing option as a one- or two-inning reliever.
He'll likely have a few low-leverage outings before the regular season is over, but he could become an option in the late innings leading into closer Koji Uehara. Lately, those innings have been primarily filled by lefty Craig Breslow and righty Junichi Tazawa.
"[Dempster] won't be there to be the long guy," Farrell said. "First and foremost, we have an opportunity to get some appearances before the regular season finishes out. Inside that, we'll have a better read on his comfort, see how his stuff potentially plays up a little bit in one- or two-inning stints and if that's the case, we'll pick our spots as we move forward.''
From 2005-07, Dempster served as the Cubs' closer, collecting 85 saves. In his career, Dempster has a 4.11 ERA as a reliever, compared to a 4.38 ERA as a starter.
Farrell said Dempster's experience out of the bullpen was a big factor in the decision.
"Compared to someone who hasn't, it's a huge advantage," Farrell said. "As is his attitude, that's probably the biggest thing that stood out to me in meeting with him. He sees the reason for it, understands there was a need to trim back by one starter and he's looking forward to the opportunity."
Ellsbury begins baseball activities; Victorino late scratch
BOSTON -- Jacoby Ellsbury began baseball activities on Friday as he makes his way back from a compression fracture in his right foot.
Meanwhile, Shane Victorino was a late scratch from the Red Sox lineup with a jammed right thumb.
Two center fielders down, the Red Sox turned to Jackie Bradley Jr. for another game as the club opened a three-game series with the Blue Jays at Fenway Park. The Sox should get their All-Stars back soon.
While there's no timetable on Ellsbury's return, the fact that he swung off a tee and was throwing during pregame warmups was a positive sign for him.
Victorino was trying to do the same, but his thumb began acting up while swinging. He put a pad on his hand to protect from the pain and tried to talk his way back into the lineup, but manager John Farrell preferred he sit out another day.
"As he's been dealing with a number of things, yeah, this isn't something that's going to keep him out for a long period of time," Farrell said.
The hamstring and back injuries that Victorino had been fighting have subdued. And with off-days built into the schedule down the stretch, there will be time to recover.
"He's a tough player, he does have a high pain threshold," Farrell said. "Seemingly inside of games where something will arise, he'll go get some work done on something and find his way back out, so he's good to go. But it's not uncommon as we've talked about before, this time of year guys are going to be banged up somewhat.''
Red Sox rotation won't be resting up next week
BOSTON -- The dust might be settled on the Red Sox's American League East title before their final series against the Orioles begins next weekend, but Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and John Lackey won't be taking any starts off.
Lester, Buchholz and Lackey will each make a start in the final regular-season series, though the order has yet to be determined. Rather than rest them down the stretch, manager John Farrell will give them a last chance to tune up before the playoffs begin.
In his first season since recovering from Tommy John surgery, Lackey has thrown 183 1/3 innings. His highest total is 231, combined with the postseason, in 2007.
Lester has thrown 201 1/3 innings entering Friday night's start against the Blue Jays. He could set a regular-season high, his previous coming in 2008, when he pitched 210 1/3 innings in the regular season and 26 2/3 innings in the postseason.
Buchholz, who missed more than three months this season, has thrown 95 1/3 innings. His career high was 189 1/3 innings, set last year.
Felix Doubront enters Sunday with 154 innings in 2013, though Farrell said he could be moved to the bullpen after Sunday's start.
Jake Peavy will start Tuesday against the Rockies. No starter has been announced for Wednesday.
"It could very well be a game which we break up to give a number of guys some work," Farrell said.