Ryan Dempster was last seen on a pitching mound in Game 1 of the 2013 World Series, where he threw an inning of relief in an 8-1 Red Sox win over the Cardinals.
You’ll be seeing him pitching this spring if you watch the World Baseball Classic:
Ryan Dempster and Eric Gagne planning to pitch for Canada at World Baseball Classic— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) January 14, 2017
And lest you think this isn’t true, first, Shi Davidi is a reliable reporter in Toronto, and he’s also got a quote from Dempster, who flashes his usual humor:
Ryan Dempster on deciding to pitch for Canada at WBC: “I was putting up some really good numbers in beer-league softball."— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) January 14, 2017
Well, why not. Dempster will turn 40 in May. He retired primarily because he didn’t think his back could hold up through a full baseball season — and if I’m not mistaken he walked away from $13 million, as he was signed through 2014.
But he could certainly pitch a few innings in relief in a handful of games this spring. Canada is in Pool C, which will play early-round games in Miami beginning March 9. Other countries in Pool C are the USA, the Dominican Republic and Colombia.
As for Eric Gagne, whose career was also cut short by injury, he hasn’t pitched since 17 starts in indy ball in 2009 (save for single appearances, also in indy ball in Canada, in 2015 and 2016). He turned 41 last week. Gagne was a lights-out closer for the Dodgers from 2002-04. I suppose he could also pitch an inning or two.
Even if these two don’t see game action, they could certainly help out younger players on the Canadian team. Dempster had his best years for the Cubs, for whom he pitched for eight-plus seasons. He had a 67-66 W/L record and 87 saves, with a 3.74 ERA (116 ERA+), and posted 19.9 bWAR while a Cub. In 2008 he was an N.L. All-Star and finished sixth in Cy Young voting.
And then he was traded for Kyle Hendricks — so in a way he’s still helping the Cubs.