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Dempster preparing to return for Classic with Canada

Former Cubs right-hander hasn't pitched since 2013
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- The last time Ryan Dempster pitched for Team Canada, it was 1994 and he was 17 years old, playing for a junior team. On Sunday, he'll head to Tampa, Fla., to join his country's team to prep for the World Baseball Classic.

"Twenty-three years later, to do this again is pretty cool," Dempster said Wednesday.

MESA, Ariz. -- The last time Ryan Dempster pitched for Team Canada, it was 1994 and he was 17 years old, playing for a junior team. On Sunday, he'll head to Tampa, Fla., to join his country's team to prep for the World Baseball Classic.

"Twenty-three years later, to do this again is pretty cool," Dempster said Wednesday.

He may be 39 -- and hasn't pitched in the big leagues since Game 1 of the 2013 World Series when he was with the Red Sox -- but Dempster looks ready to start. He decided to get back on the mound after working out this summer.

Full World Baseball Classic coverage

"I kept periodically throwing and keeping my arm moving," Dempster said. "Then it was just, 'Let me try this.' Once the [2016] season ended, I cranked it up in November like crazy, and got on a throwing program like I would if I was getting ready for the season.

"It's been feeling good. I've had a couple times where, 'Oh, I'm a little stiff, that's a little sore,' but that's to be expected, and my arm bounces back real nice."

Team Canada opens play on March 9 against the Dominican Republic in Pool C at Marlins Park. Colombia and the U.S. fill out the pool.

:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::

The good news is that even though it's been a few years since he last pitched competitively -- and he'll turn 40 in May -- his arm feels good.

"The velocity is playable now, as long as you're hitting your spots and changing speeds and being a little bit of a mathematician out there," Dempster said. "Now, you've just got to execute."

Dempster knows there's a video of Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein connecting off of him during a workout in Mesa this week. Dempster noticed that the video was edited to make it look as if Epstein went deep.

"They don't show any of the splits he was swinging and missing at by a mile, or the fastballs he was taking down and away," Dempster said. "I'll let him have his moment. He had a decent swing, I'll give him that."

Soon, Dempster will be dealing with real hitters.

"I'm not as spry as I once was, but I'm a little smarter and I can use that to my advantage," Dempster said.

Video: Epstein steps to the plate for BP with Dempster

When the World Baseball Classic is done, that will be it for Dempster.

"I'm not coming back trying to play baseball," he said. "This is a chance to represent my country. It's a challenge. It's fun for [my 10-year-old son] Brady to see. 'Oh, look at Daddy.' He's like, 'Where are you going?' 'I'm going to throw.' He's been coming with me.

"I've got a big challenge ahead of me whenever I pitch to big league hitters, like All-Star caliber hitters. We don't have to be the best team for the whole year, we just have to be the best team for three games and then hopefully move on."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Chicago Cubs, Ryan Dempster