Red Sox's Dempster throws against the Blue Jays in the first inning of their American League MLB baseball game in Toronto

Ryan Dempster willing to serve as playoff reliever for Red Sox

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Ryan Dempster has a bunch of relief experience from early in his career and has been mediocre at best as a starter this season, so the Red Sox are thinking about shifting him to the bullpen for the playoffs.

Dempster hasn’t relieved since closing for the Cubs in 2007, but told Rob Bradford of WEEI.com:

If I was asked to go down there I could help us out in a big way. I have confidence in my ability, confidence in the mental side of it. I’ve been there before. It’s fun. It’s a totally different animal. … I’ll do whatever role they ask me to pitch in. Whatever they ask me to do, I’m going to grab it by the horns and run with it.

That’s a good attitude to have, although even if the Red Sox do shift Dempster to the bullpen for the playoffs it’s possible he won’t be asked to fill a high-leverage role anyway. Dempster has a 4.64 ERA and 156/78 K/BB ratio in 169 innings this season, which is pretty terrible, and in his last two seasons as a reliever (2006 and 2007) he posted a combined 4.76 ERA and 122/66 K/BB ratio in 142 innings.

Starter or reliever, if the Red Sox are forced to rely on Dempster getting key outs in the playoffs something probably went awry with their plans.

Report: Rays nearing a deal with Shawn Tolleson

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 18: Reliever Shawn Tolleson #37 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on June 18, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays and free agent reliever Shawn Tolleson are close to finalizing a contract.

Tolleson, who turns 29 years old on Thursday, had an ugly 2016 season, finishing with a 7.68 ERA and a 29/10 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings. He was one of the Rangers’ best relievers in the two seasons prior to that, however, which included saving 35 games in 2015.

It’s not known yet what kind of contract the two sides are negotiating. It could be a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, a non-guaranteed major league contract, or a guaranteed major league contract.

President Obama pardons Willie McCovey

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 06:  San Francisco Giants legend Willie McCovey  waves to the crowd while seating between Jeff Kent (L) and Willie Mays during a ceremony honoring Buster Posey for winning the 2012 National League MVP before the Giants game against the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park on April 6, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The big presidential pardon news today concerns the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence. We’ll leave that aside. For our purposes, know that someone in the world of baseball was pardoned: Willie McCovey.

Yes, Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, who in 1995 pleaded guilty to income tax fraud related to the non-reporting of income received from memorabilia and autograph shows. Duke Snider pleaded guilty alongside McCovey. They were given two years probation and fines of $5,000. Snider died in 2011. McCovey still works with the San Francisco Giants as a senior advisor and goodwill ambassador.

President Obama’s release of McCovey’s pardon was pretty succinct. But it’s enough to scrub the record of one of the greatest sluggers of all time.