BOSTON -- There is no mystery to why Ryan Dempster lasted just three innings Thursday night.
“My command’s been terrible," he said.
Dempster walked six batters in just 4 2/3 innings in his last start, Saturday in Minnesota, when he threw 127 pitches.
Thursday night against the Cleveland Indians, he walked four in three innings, three of those walks coming in the third, when the Indians scored three times to take a 4-0 lead. Dempster threw 30 pitches in the second inning, 40 in the third. Those pitch counts alone dictated there would be no coming out for a fourth, even after David Ortiz’s three-run homer in the bottom of the third drew the Sox to within a run.
In his last two starts, in a span of 7 2/3 innings, Dempster has thrown 212 pitches, about the number a pitcher who has his stuff together would throw in twice as many innings.
“Unnecessary walks," he said. “I just have to try to fix that."
The command issues have surfaced since Dempster gave up home runs in three consecutive innings against the Blue Jays on May 12, his only start where there may have been a noticeable dip in his fastball velocity, manager John Farrell said. Otherwise, he said, Dempster, who just turned 36 nearly three weeks ago, has shown consistent arm strength.
“Even in his first seven starts or so, there was no unwillingness to use the entire count and not give in to hitters,’’ Farrell said. “But when he’s needed to go to a slider or split for a strike, that’s where the command of secondary stuff has been elusive for him.
“When he executes the release point of his slider and split, they have the same action. It’s just the consistency to repeat it, pitch to pitch. The walks are what they are. They’re high.’’
Thursday, according to brooksbaseball.net, Dempster threw just slightly more than half of his splitters for strikes (8 of 15), and only 4 of 10 cutters for strikes. In his 40-pitch third inning, he threw just over half (23) of his pitches for strikes.
“I threw it all over the place," he said.
What to do? Make the adjustments required to make better pitches, he said.
“Not hard," he said. “I’ve been doing this a long time."
And while the Cleveland Indians mashed the ball Thursday, collecting 16 hits in all, Dempster offered this: “They’re a lot better when you don’t throw quality pitches."