FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Though Ryan Dempster's Red Sox teammates fully respected his decision not to pitch in 2014, it was difficult for many of them to know that the righty wouldn't be around the team.
"It's tough," said first baseman Mike Napoli. "He's a guy that meant a lot to this clubhouse. The fun we had in here. The comedian he is. He's amazing. He's just really fun, keeps everyone loose. He's a great friend and will be missed. He's like a brother. Everyone in this clubhouse, we have a strong bond."
In just one season with the Red Sox, Dempster turned into an invaluable teammate.
"I think it shocked everybody," said lefty reliever Andrew Miller. "Everybody wants to soak in their last moments of being around him. He's a great guy. He'll be remembered fondly. You learn as much as you can from a guy like that."
A professional on the mound, Dempster made his teammates howl in the clubhouse. Dempster didn't just crack jokes. He did full comedy acts.
"His comedic value will be sorely missed for sure. As good of a player as he was for us, he was even better in the clubhouse," Miller said. "You can't replace that. Nobody else can do what he does to keep everybody loose and keep everything positive and fun. He made the game a lot more fun."
"There's a void within the clubhouse," said lefty Craig Breslow. "There aren't too many people who can say the time is right to walk away from the game you love, particularly when there's a pretty sizable amount of money to be left on the table."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.