Doubront remains most reliable starter

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Doubront remains most reliable starter

TORONTO For Felix Doubront, it was pretty simple. Just throw the ball.

Doubront started out with 3-0 counts to the first two Blue Jays hitters he faced Saturday afternoon. Not a situation any pitcher ever wants. But, he eventually got Kelly Johnson to strike out, swinging at a 93-mph fastball, and Yunel Escobar to ground out on a comebacker.

But Doubront knew he wouldnt be able to work that way all afternoon. So, he made some adjustments.

Stay back and just throw the ball and dont think too much, the left-hander said.

The result? His staff-leading sixth win of the season, as he went 6 13 innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on seven hits and a walk with seven strikeouts and two solo home runs. The 6 13 innings match a season high.

Two of the three runs he allowed came on solo home runs, one by Jeff Mathis with one out in the third, the other by Jose Bautista leading off the eighth. The other run (unearned) was a result of his own error on a chopper back to the mound by David Cooper.

I was actually thinking that today he really had better stuff than Ive seen this year as far as crispness with the fastball, good curveball, changeup, said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He just kept falling behind guys. But as far as stuffwise, I thought today he had great stuff.

Doubront improved his record to 6-2 with a 3.75 ERA. It was his sixth straight start with at least six strikeouts, matching New Yorks CC Sabathia for most among American League left-handers, and his sixth overall with at least seven strikeouts. He has 66 strikeouts over 62 13 innings this season, for a 9.53 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio.

Hes been solid. Every start hes been solid, Saltalamacchia said. He goes after guys. Same thing every time. Doesnt trick anybody. Just has great stuff, good command, the ball moves. Hes just going up there like a bulldog.

In his last six starts Doubront is 5-1 with a 2.73 ERA, while not giving up more than three earned runs in any of those outings. He has given up six earned runs over his last three starts, all on five home runs.

He does it different ways, said manager Bobby Valentine. Today he showed hes a good pitcher because he was able to win the game without having his best stuff. His 1-ball, 2-strikes count wasnt present and thats usually his trademark. He was behind hitters getting three balls on hitters and still getting them out at times. In the fourth he came up with a good curveball and started throwing it. He figured out a way to keep us in the game to win the game.

For Doubront, who was not assured of a spot in the rotation until the final days of spring training, it was his seventh quality start of the season, matching Josh Beckett for most on the staff. The Sox are 8-3 in games Doubront starts.

I think he has room for improvement, Valentine said. Thats the great thing. Hes done great so far. We are 8-3 in those 11 starts. I think hes going to learn more about this league and about himself and continue to improve. Hes got a dynamite fastball.

All of which has come as a bit of a surprise.

When you talk about a guy winning six games by June 2nd and he hadnt been in the rotation before, I cant say thats what I expected, Valentine said. But I expected quality. I just didnt know what kind of length hes be able to give us. I have an open mind. I remember one meeting in the winter when everyone was being talked about it was general manager Ben Cherington or someone from his department said, Hes out of options. If he doesnt make our team, hes going to make some team and hes going to be in their rotation. At that time I felt, why not our team?

When he gets ahead I think he can be dominating. Instead of going 3-2 as often as he does after he gets ahead on the count I think he can start putting people away. He did it on the one 0-2 count when he got boom fastball strike three, but he wasnt there very often tonight.
Its not confidence. Sometimes its maybe over confidence. You get ahead quickly and then you say now I really have a perfect pitch to make. Watch this one. Hes just missing. When he starts catching the corner with those pitches and starts throwing the pitch thats off the other pitch that theyre checking their swing on, hes not a fun at-bat. I guarantee that.

Tomase: Red Sox are better than this but I have real concerns

Tomase: Red Sox are better than this but I have real concerns

John Tomase, Chris Gasper and Gary Tanguay discuss is the Boston Red Sox recent slump is more than just a slump and also when John Farrell needs to start worrying about his job security again.

Red Sox understand first-inning woes are putting pressure on offense

Red Sox understand first-inning woes are putting pressure on offense

ST. PETERSBURG, FLa. -- Not long ago, the Red Sox were repeatedly taking first-inning leads, often with multi-run innings.

These days, of course, it's the other way round. The Red Sox haven't scored a first-inning run since June 11, while the opposition is piling up the runs, with 22 scored in the last 15 games prior to Tuesday.

"Two weeks ago,'' said John Farrell, "we were talking about how much pressure it takes off (our) pitcher when you go out and score (in the first). We're living the other side of both of those right now.''

The Red Sox recognize the problem, but fixing isn't easy, namely because the issue is not the same for every starter.

The Sox are satisfied with their approach. What they have to change are the results.

"To go out and command the baseball from the start,'' said Farrell, "that's what we're all working toward getting better at. It's pretty clear where we need to improve.''

"Obviously, it makes it difficult for the offense,'' said pitching coach Carl Willis of the recent habit of falling behind. "to start off in a hole. It kind of sucks some energy out of the dugout when you're playing catch-up right away. (The pitchers) are aware of it. We're looking at everyone's routine. A couple of guys have really good, consistent routines.''

Willis said the Red Sox have examined everything, from pre-game routines and timing for warm-ups. So far, they haven't been able to discover any common factors.

"We've got to come out and throw better in that first inning,'' said David Price, who will start the series finale against his former team Wednesday afternoon. "It's setting the tone early. It's going out there and putting up a quick zero and giving all your defenders and your offense (the message), 'Alright, we've got it today. We don't have to go out and put up a 10-spot.'

"If we can go out there and put up early zeros, it takes a lot of the pressure off that offense.''

For now, it's something the Sox are focused on repairing.

"Baseball's a crazy game,'' said Willis. "Sometimes you go through periods and it just happens. That's not a good answer and that's not an excuse. We have to be better and they know that.''

 

Trip to minors gives E-Rod opportunity to work on delivery consistency

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Trip to minors gives E-Rod opportunity to work on delivery consistency

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis didn't say that Eduardo Rodriguez was tipping his pitches again Monday.

Then again, he didn't have to.

The results -- nine runs on 11 hits in 2 1/3 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays -- offered a hint. And, just for good measure, Willis all but said so Tuesday afternoon.

"It really goes back to consistency in (his) delivery,'' said Willis, "because with the inconsistencies -- I know it's no secret -- hitters know what's coming. He's worked on it extensively in bullpen sessions, dry work periods. He makes progress, shows the abilities to make those adjustments. However, when the game begins and his focus gears more toward attacking the hitter, the old habits resurface.

"It's not from lack of effort on his part. It's just a bit much to accomplish at the major league level, where hitters can look for inconsistencies and make adjustments more so that in the minors.''

Rodriguez knows what has to be done. But as recent history suggests, it's not an easy fix.

"It takes a lot of work. It does,'' said Willis. "Obviously, he's gone back to his old delivery that he's more accustomed to and comfortable with. I think there's a possibility that we're going to have to make an adjustment with his hands -- where he sets them and keeps them throughout his delivery, maybe eliminate some movement. And that's going to be something that would definitely be difficult to take place here.

"It's not easy, but certainly not impossible. He's a good athlete. He's an intelligent kid. He's aware. But it's the ability to maintain to make it a new habit so he doesn't have to think about it.''

How long Rodriguez takes to correct the flaws is unknown, making it difficult to estimate when he might return to the Red Sox rotation.

"I don't have an exact answer for that,'' said John Farrell. "That's going to be a start-by-start situation and (depends on) how he solidifies the adjustments that are requires. I don't have a timetable for how long it's going to be. . . But to suggest that this is going to be a one-start situation (at Pawtucket) would be a little aggressive.''