It won't be a long wait for Ryan Dempster to get a taste of pitching in the Texas heat, not to mention the heat of a pennant race he was acquired to help his new club win.
Dealt from the Chicago Cubs to Texas with no time to spare before Tuesday's trade deadline, Dempster takes the hill for his Rangers debut when they close out a 4-game series with the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday. Adding to the buzz of Dempster's first start for Texas is it will come against former Rangers hurler CJ Wilson who the Angels signed away last winter.
Dempster, a 3rd-round pick by Texas in 1995 before being traded away the following season, will deliver the first pitch Thursday at 8:05 p.m. (ET). Early MLB odds listed the Rangers -115 to -120, and the 9½-run total was priced 20 cents to the 'under.'
Both clubs bolstered their rotations with trades in the past few days. The Angels added Zack Greinke from the Milwaukee Brewers last weekend to put the Rangers in a position of beefing up their own rotation with Dempster. Texas has been hit hard with injuries to the starting staff, most recently losing both Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz to season-ending elbow surgeries. Feliz's procedure was the most serious and will keep him out at least 12 months, while Lewis should be ready for spring training.
Texas also lost Derek Holland to a stint on the disabled list in June and the addition of Roy Oswalt wasn't working out with the veteran relegated to the bullpen after his effort on Monday in the series opener.
The Angels battered Oswalt and the Rangers for a 15-8 win in that game as +145 underdogs, then came back with a 6-2 win on Tuesday behind Jered Weaver in a game that closed as a pick on the baseball betting board. Texas had dropped eight of its last 12 and seen the AL West lead shrink to three games over the Halos heading into Wednesday's matchup that was still pending. The Rangers were priced at -165 with a 10½-run total in a mound duel between Yu Darvish and LA's Garrett Richards.
Dempster made 16 starts for the Cubs before the trade, falling to 5-5 on the campaign with consecutive defeats his last two trips to the mound for Chicago. His 2.25 ERA ranked second in the NL at the time of the trade. Thursday will be his career cherry vs. the Angels, and his last appearance at Rangers Ballpark came in 2007 when he was closing for the Cubs.
Wilson will be facing his former teammates for the fourth time this campaign, though his first appearance vs. the Rangers deserves an asterisk. Wilson pitched just a third of an inning in Texas on May 11 before rain stopped the game. He wound up the losing pitcher in that outing, but came back the next day to pitch 5-2/3 frames of an Angels 4-2 victory.
He earned another no-decision in a Halos win at Anaheim on June 2, tossing six shutout innings an a 3-2 final.
Despite this being Dempster's first career start vs. the Angels, one member of their lineup has plenty of experience against him. Albert Pujols, who homered twice on Tuesday, is 18-for-55 facing Dempster, swatting seven homers and also coaxing 11 walks along the way.
The umpire crew will complete a full circuit with Jim Joyce calling the balls and strikes in Game 4. The 25-year veteran brings a season mark of 12-9 'over' into the contest, including seven of his last 10 plate assignments jumping the total.
Temperatures are expected to approach 110º in the D-FW metroplex on Thursday. The thermometer should still be in triple digits for Dempster's first pitch, with a south wind at 12-15 mph.