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By Shawn Clarke, MLB Contributor - Archive - Email
Rangers shouldn't worry about Dempster
Ryan Dempster lasted just 4 2/3 innings in a 15-9 win during his Rangers debut.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The problem with first impressions is that you can only make one.

So if the Texas Rangers are ready to abandon Ryan Dempster after one start, it's totally understandable.

But let's get serious here.

Fitting in at a new job isn't always easy and there may be times when antacids should be within an arm's length. It's the same in baseball. Some players become apprehensive playing in front of crowds, family or their employers, and others couldn't have a care or worry in the world.

Dempster comes off as calm and collected, and rather humorous to boot, but facing an American League lineup for the first time should be no laughing matter. Staring down the barrels of nine men who have the aptitude to hit all parts of the field is something Dempster had never done before.

Sure it's nice going against pitchers under National League rules because they haven't concentrated on swinging the bat since high school. Once you're drafted as a pitcher, that's your position unless a fallout occurs. Dempster was put on full blast Thursday under the bright lights at Rangers Ballpark and exhibited no signs of what the coveted right-hander has been known for throughout his career, especially through more than half of this season.

Dempster lasted just 4 2/3 innings in a 15-9 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and allowed a season-high eight runs and nine hits, including a pair of home runs. He struck out six, walked three and had his shortest outing since going 4 1/3 frames against San Diego back on May 30 as a member of the Chicago Cubs.

Dempster, who could impersonate former Cubs announcer Harray Caray to a tee, had one comfort zone in pitching to catcher Geovany Soto. Soto also joined the Rangers via trade with Texas, but the familiarity proved nothing.

Is it a big deal Dempster pitched poorly and Texas still won? Yes. Why? Because pitching is key to winning and the Rangers' starters haven't been so hot lately. Matt Harrison has lost three of four starts, Yu Darvish is 1-3 in his past four decisions and Derek Holland has one win in his past three outings. Also, Colby Lewis has joined Neftali Perez with a season-ending injury.

Texas is in the thick of a division race and sits 4 1/2 games ahead of the Angels for the AL West lead. Dempster won't get a shot at redemption until next week against either Boston or Detroit, but was somewhat pleased with his debut even though the bullpen and an alarming Rangers' lineup bailed him out.

"The most important thing was I kept the team in the ball game and gave us a chance to win," Dempster said afterward. "I'm not really used to that, giving up eight runs. It was quite an offensive outburst and a good win for us."

Angels left fielder Mark Trumbo said his teammates took advantage of Dempster's rarely made mistakes. That's what winning teams do, and even though the Angels came out on the losing end, they rattled Dempster enough that he most likely won't forget the difficulty he had the next time he faces Anaheim. As previously mentioned, Dempster was hounded for eight runs; he didn't allow that many through his last seven starts as a Cub.

Typically an off-speed pitcher, Dempster's tough slider wasn't hitting the spots and it resulted in three walks. Once he departed the game, the Texas bullpen held the Angels scoreless until Joe Nathan gave up a two-out homer to Alberto Callaspo in the ninth.

When Dempster's deal was finalized, it pushed Roy Oswalt to the bullpen, and the latter threw two scoreless innings in his first relief appearance since 2010 to record the win.

Rangers manager Ron Washington liked what he saw from the spurned Oswalt.

"He was the reason that we had a chance to win that game," Washington said of Oswalt. "He's a veteran. He's been around. Once he takes that mound, a pride factor kicks in. He certainly did a good job for those two innings that he was out there. We certainly needed it and he gave it to us."

Don't expect to see Dempster join or replace Oswalt in the 'pen if he has another lousy outing. But do assume the Rangers to begin feeling somewhat uneasy as the race toward the postseason heats up.

Speaking of playoff races, the Washington Nationals have made news about a pitcher of their won.

Young flamethrower Stephen Strasburg is expected to be shut down when he hits the 160-innings mark, and he's already pitched 121 1/3 innings. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said he owes it to Strasburg and his family to not burn out the kid since he already had elbow ligament replacement surgery.

"There is no magic number," Rizzo said a few weeks ago. "It will be the eye test. (Manager) Davey (Johnson) won't decide, and ownership won't decide. It will be the general manager, and that's me."

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, Strasburg should be monitored closely so it doesn't jeopardize his future and the club's. The ace of the Nationals staff is in the plans for this year and beyond, and the future is the most important part even if it plays a role in a postseason push come September and October.

Strasburg can pout if he chooses to, but it's not his call in the end.


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