FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP)- Boston Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster says he's taking this season off but is leaving open the possibility of playing in 2015.
The 36-year-old right-hander said Sunday he is stepping away for physical reasons and to spend more time with his family.
"I had an incredible run, a chance to play 16 years in the major leagues and be around a lot of great teammates, made a lot of good friendships, great friendships," Dempster said in a surprise announcement one day before the first formal spring training workout for pitchers and catchers. "I'm totally comfortable with it. I'm at peace with my decision."
Dempster finished his only season with the Red Sox with an 8-9 record and a 4.57 ERA and didn't get a start during the Red Sox's postseason run to a World Series title.
"The past few years have been tougher and tougher," he said. "As you get older, going through some things, some issues I have with my neck that have made it harder and harder to throw a baseball and throw it like I'm accustomed to throw it" contributed to his decision.
The Red Sox still have a solid veteran rotation with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront. Several teammates watched as Dempster made his announcement, including Lester, Buchholz, Lackey, Peavy, second baseman Dustin Pedroia, catcher David Ross an reliever Andrew Miller.
Dempster said he spoke with the club a few weeks ago about taking the season off. Several teammates said they were shocked to learn the news.
He has pitched for 16 seasons with the Florida Marlins, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers and Red Sox. He is 132-133 with a 4.35 ERA and made the All-Star team in 2008 when he went 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA with the Cubs.
Boston signed Dempster to a $26.5 million, two-year deal before last season.
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