By Nick Cafardo, Globe Staff
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Ryan Dempster pitched two scoreless innings in his Red Sox debut vs. the St. Louis Cardinals Tuesday.
Dempster threw 33 pitches, 24 for strikes.
“Things went good,” said the veteran righthander, who signed a two-year, $26 million deal this offseason. “Body and arm felt good. Was able to attack the strike zone for the most part. Good first day.”
Dempster said he hoped to accomplish “tempo, getting the ball down, pitching to a spot where you feel comfortable and you think you’ll have success and keep trying to inch closer to getting consistent down there.”
He seemed to do that.
“It’s real important as pitchers to get outs," he said. "Why not practice doing that as much as you can? I’ve always taken that approach in spring training, whether I’m a young guy trying to work my way in, or a veteran guy. I practice trying to get outs.
"You can learn a lot. Those are guys you might face during the year or might not. They might get traded and it’s your opportunity to learn about them.”
While Dempster was a strike-throwing machine on this day, he said it hasn't always been that way.
“A number of times, I‘d throw more balls off the backstop than in the catcher’s glove, so it just comes with a little experience and feeling more comfortable,” he said.
Ryan Lavarnway caught Dempster, who feels the Sox catchers have a good approach.
“Nice part of the catchers we have here -- Salty, David [Ross], and Ryan, and especially Ryan -- we’ve had a chance to have some dinner together and get to know each other and what we like to do," said Dempster. "It’s just communication.
"You can sit there and not talk about it or guess and find yourself in a battle to figure each other out. All the guys catching have done an unbelievable job since I got here of asking, 'What do you want to do? Where do you want me to set up?' "
He said he has also picked the brains of his fellow pitchers, who have better American League knowledge than he does, even though he spent a couple of months with the Rangers last season.
“Those guys have faced those guys all year," he said. "[Pitching coach] Juan [Nieves] does a great job preparing for the hitters. The video is there. Nothing like feeling it yourself. But if you study hard enough, you have an idea.”
Dempster is a workout warrior and keeps himself in great shape. But, he said, “Working out isn’t just getting stronger, it’s discipline. Sometimes it helps you get through the mental grind of going through ups and downs of a season.
"As you get older, you get more experience but your stuff tends to go downhill, so I try to make that decline as slow as I can and try to keep myself in good shape. I continue to learn and use that knowledge.”
When asked about his goals, Dempster -- who is known for his sense of humor -- said, “Shoot under par. Try to swim with a dolphin. Stay healthy. That’s all I ever want for me and for the entire team.”
Never swam with a dolphin?
“Not in the wild," he said. "I swam with Snowflake from 'Ace Ventura,' but never in the wild.”