Right-hander Ryan Dempster makes his Rangers debut tonight as his new club vies for a four-game split with the Los Angeles Angels in Arlington. He's never faced the Angels, but he has faced Albert Pujols plenty of times in the National League Central.
Dempster was a guest on Rangers Baseball Tonight that preceded Wednesday's win on the Texas Rangers ESPN Radio Network. He talked about why he accepted the trade to Texas, the two hours leading up to the trade deadline, the Greg Maddux impact, pitching for an American League ballclub for the first time, his relationship with catcher Geovany Soto and the kind of pitcher he is at this point in his career.
What else should we know about Dempster?
His pro career began when the Rangers drafted him in the third round of the 1995 draft out of Gibsons High School in British Columbia. He signed July 6 of that year and was an employee of the Rangers until Aug. 8, 1996, when he and Rick Helling were traded to the Florida Marlins for John Burkett.
The feeling he had for that trade was a stark contrast from the most recent trade.
"Last time, I cried like a little baby. I had just turned 19. Your initial reaction is they don't want me, but it turned out they wanted someone to help win a pennant," Dempster said. "It kind of gave me an opportunity with another organization to get to the big leagues a lot faster. Looking back, I'm actually pretty thankful it happened. Definitely a change of emotions. And now the excitement of being traded back (to Texas)."
He has pitched just once against the Rangers in his career, and that was on June 19, 2007 in Arlington. He closed a Cubs 5-4 win against the Rangers, striking out the side (Frank Catalanotto, Gerald Laird and Brad Wilkerson). Primarily, Dempster has been a starting pitcher in his career but his first four seasons with the Cubs were spent as a closer, which helped when he moved back to the starting rotation in 2008.
"It helps you deal with a little bit of stress during the game," Dempster said, "if you have the bases loaded and different situations that might necessarily get you moving as a closer. It taught me how to slow things down a little bit and realize that you are just one pitch away from getting out of an inning and that's all you can really control."
The Rangers like his competitiveness, his command of the fastball, his slider and splitter. According to baseball-reference.com, Dempster will work with Soto for the 105th time in his career. Only former Cubs catcher Michael Barrett (121) has caught more of Dempster's games in his career. One thing to keep in mind is that Albert Pujols is 18-for-55 (.327) vs. Dempster including seven home runs.
Listen to the podcast.