Doubront comes through for Sox once again

Doubront comes through for Sox once again
August 4, 2013, 8:45 pm
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BOSTON -- Back in spring training, to associate the word "workmanlike" with a Felix Doubront outing would have been oxymoronic.

Down in Fort Myers, Doubront was not ready to pitch. He was not in game shape. He had messy mechanical issues that needed fixing. He wasn't fit to work through much of anything on the mound.

That pitcher was but a distant memory Sunday afternoon. He allowed five hits, struck out five, walked none and didn't allow a run for the second time in his career to help beat the Diamondbacks, 4-0.

In all likelihood, he won't be dubbed "Bulldog" any time soon. But he ground his way through difficult at-bats, throwing 95 pitches, and ignoring what looked like a slight muscle pull in the seventh inning to finish off his dominant outing.

"First pitch strikes were a little elusive, but he was able to go to a breaking ball or a change-up to get the timing back in his delivery and still maintain a lot of efficiency," manager John Farrell said. "A couple of key double-plays that he was able to get, [he] had a number of fastballs that they chased up for some strikeouts. Just a workmanlike solid seven shutout innings for him."

There's that word: Workmanlike.

Just six months ago, Doubront was anything but. His story was shaping into another well-worn tale of promise unfulfilled. He was a 20-something left-handed pitcher with electric stuff who just couldn't figure it out -- or didn't care to.

Now he's one of the Red Sox' most reliable starters. In his last 15 starts since a brief stint in the bullpen, he has a 2.55 ERA. He's allowed three earned runs or less in 19 of his 20 starts this season. In his last nine starts, he's allowed just 13 runs combined.

On the season, he's now 8-5 with a 3.56 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP.

Doubront continually emphasized the importance of keeping the ball down against the Diamondbacks. It's a simple goal of his for every start, a staple of his game-to-game blueprint. Staying with that, he said, has been key to his recent success.

"Being consistent is everything," he said. "Taking my plan for my next outing is the most important part to me. We're working on that every fifth day."

Doubront grabbed at his right side in his final inning while pitching to Arizona third baseman Martin Prado. After getting a visit from Farrell and trainer Rick Jameyson, he took one practice pitch and determined he could finish the inning.

"We weren't gonna take any chances," Farrell said. "But he was pretty adamant that, while he felt some tightness, he was still OK. He threw the one pitch just to test it and make sure nothing was there. He finished out the inning with some of the best stuff he had on the day."

Reaching back and raising his velocity a few miles per hour, Doubront got out of the inning with a fly out, a strikeout and a ground ball to Stephen Drew to end the inning.

Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves said that Doubront has worked on several changes to his delivery since spring training and credits him with making them stick.

Though in his first year as Red Sox pitching coach, Nieves said he could clearly see Doubront's talent back in the winter.

"It's there," Nieves said. "It's just a matter of getting ready in the beginning of the season to be like this throughout the season."

His teammates have seen it for some time now, too, and they're reaping the benefits of Doubront's renewed focus this season.

"It's been in him this whole time," catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "He's really stepped up for us and become one of our top pitchers. Which, it's a good time. We need this."

The Red Sox recently acquired Jake Peavy to give their starting rotation more depth, especially if Clay Buchholz is not able to be an effective starter when he returns from the disabled list.

If and when the first-place Red Sox make the postseason, a three-man rotation of Peavy, Buchholz and Lester would be formidable. But if Doubront continues to pitch like this -- that is to say nothing of John Lackey, who has been a pleasant surprise for the Red Sox in his own right -- it will make Farrell's decision come the end of the regular season that much more difficult.

Until then, the team will be more than willing to take what Doubront has provided every five days.