Doubront struggles with command, possible fatigue

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Doubront struggles with command, possible fatigue

BOSTON Felix Doubront has been a great story for the Red Sox while serving as the only member of the Sox rotation thats consistently exceeded expectations all season.

The rookie lefty leads the Sox with 10 wins and is tied with Jon Lester for the team lead with 11 quality starts. But it also appears Doubront is now hitting an innings pitched wall thats always a hazard for young hurlers, and thats an apt description for what happened to him in the decisive fifth inning of Thursday nights 5-3 loss to the Indians at Progressive Field.

The lefty had retired nine batters in a row and was protecting a 3-1 lead in the fifth, and had managed to improvise his way through the Cleveland lineup without his good fastball. Instead Doubront was living on curveballs and changeups, but that eventually caught up to him when five straight Tribe hitters reached base including a pair courtesy of bases on balls.

It was unlike the Doubront that had built up a 10-5 record heading into the loss and boasted a perfect 5-0 record against the AL Central before falling to the Indians.

From the get-go he wasnt really feeling it. Hes usually on the ball with control and getting ahead of hitters to attack them, said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. I felt like tonight he fell behind a lot of guys. The last inning he couldnt get ahead and stay ahead.

This was not him from the get-go. He has that guy who has the demeanor like this is my game and he doesnt get rattled. But it seemed like tonight he was trying to find his mechanics a little bit. But he battled for us.

The big blow was a Carlos Santana single to left field that tied the game at 3-3 and knocked Doubront out after only 4 13 innings and 94 pitches.

Andrew Miller replaced him, and a Michael Brantley sacrifice fly to throwing elbow-challenged Carl Crawford led to an easy sacrifice fly for the game-winning run that plated Asdrubal Cabrera.

Doubront was frustrated by his spotty fastball command and his out-of-whack mechanics, but a bigger concern for the Red Sox has to be his innings pitched total. Doubront stands at 122 23 innings after Thursdays loss, and its the second-most innings hes ever piled up in his career.

Worse than that its a 35-inning jump over last years workload, and thats typically when things start to get a little iffy for the long term health and well-being of a young starting pitcher. The first thing to usually go for a pitcher suffering from workload fatigue is typically fastball command, and that was the clear issue for Doubront in defeat.

Hes now 1-2 with a 6.35 ERA in his last four starts for the Sox, and Sox manager Bobby Valentine couldnt deny that perhaps his high innings pitched total at this point in a long year is a part of it all.

He didnt have command of his fastball. Salty did a pretty good job of mixing all the other pitchers in there to help get him through it, admitted Valentine. We wound up with a ground ball that wasnt hit to anybody, its a tie ballgame and hes out of there.

Maybe its fatigue. His command isnt quite what it was.

So whats the solution?

At some point the Sox might have to think about either A) shutting Doubront down entirely as the team continues to float away from a playoff spot or B) potentially shifting him in the bullpen where he can lighten the total workload on his prized left arm for the remaining seven weeks of the regular season.

Doubront doesnt want to admit fatigue might be creeping into his game, but then again what professional athlete would embrace that kind of a notion with a team struggling to stay afloat.

It was pretty rough. I dont feel like I was throwing my fastball like I did before, said Doubront. It was from the very first inning. I struggled in the fifth. I cant do nothing about it now.

Im not tired at all. I feel pretty good. I just have to figure out a couple of things and go get them in my next start.

Doubront has enjoyed a rare feel-good season among any number of Sox players around him that have suffered down years. The organization might want to tread lightly with a talented young pitching asset who has done yeomans work for them this year, and heed the warning signs that are beginning to crop up for Doubront.

Tuesday’s Red Sox-Tigers lineups: Wright tries to right Sox

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Tuesday’s Red Sox-Tigers lineups: Wright tries to right Sox

The Red Sox send knuckleballer Steven Wright (12-5, American League-leading 2.57 ERA) to the mound tonight in the middle game of their three-game series with the Detroit Tigers. 

Wright has won his past four starts. The Tigers counter with right-hander Mike Pelfrey (3-9, 4.78). The Red Sox field their standard lineup, with Ryan Hanigan catching Wright, as they try to rebound from a 4-2 loss on Monday night. 

The lineups:

TIGERS
Ian Kinsler 2B
Jose Iglesias SS
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martinez DH
Nick Castellanos 3B
Justin Upton LF
Mike Aviles RF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Tyler Collins CF

Mike Pelfrey

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Travis Shaw 3B
Ryan Hanigan C
Brock Holt LF

Steven Wright RHP

McAdam: Red Sox should pass on this Sale

McAdam: Red Sox should pass on this Sale

BOSTON -- I'm not sure what the Red Sox would have to give up for Chicago White Sox starter Chris Sale.

For that matter, I can't say definitively that the two clubs have actually discussed a trade for Chris Sale, though it's logical to assume they have, even in a cursory way.

The White Sox, mired toward the bottom of the A.L. Central and with just one playoff appearance in the last 11 seasons, are said to be "open'' to listening for offers on Sale. That's both their right and their duty.

As for the Red Sox, given that they're a big-market club with plenty of resources and an expectation from a loyal fan base to compete for a championship every season, they're similarly smart to inquire.

Who knows? Maybe the White Sox have had their fill of Sale and ,in a fit of pique, might be desperate enough to take less than full value to rid themselves of a pitcher who's developed into quite the clubhouse lawyer of late.

But my guess is that the White Sox are demanding a lot for Sale. That makes sense, since, beyond his raging sense of entitlement, Sale remains one of the handful of best starters in the game and is under club control for another three seasons after this one.

Whatever the asking price is, however, it's almost certainly too much.

Sure, the addition of Sale might, on paper, make the Red Sox the favorites to win the American League pennant.

Again, on paper. Ask the New York Mets, who owned the best starting rotation in the game when the season began and now sit, uncomfortably, in third place in their own division.

So much for the best-laid plans.

But the focus here is on the cost, however unknown, to obtain Sale.

If obtaining Drew Pomeranz cost the Red Sox Anderson Espinoza, how much more would Sale cost?

Let's assume that the Red Sox consider Yoan Moncada essentially untouchable. That would mean Boston would have to essentially clean out the rest of its prospect inventory. Think: a package like Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers and Michael Kopech, and perhaps more.

Or maybe the White Sox want more established young talent, and have their eyes on Mookie Betts and more.

Argue, if you wish, that pitching is more important than offense, but giving up a leadoff man who's shown indications he could become a five-tool superstar? No, thanks.

There's also the matter of need. Unlike at the beginning of the season, the Red Sox can now lay claim to having a rotation in which every one of the five starters gives them a solid chance to win.

Yes, David Price has underperformed in a big way. But that's likely the result of adjusting to Boston and new surroundings. What are the odds that, at 30, Price has almost overnight permanently devolved into a mediocre starter after finishing second in the Cy Young Award voting just last fall?

Steven Wright has emerged as a consistent starter who's under control for the forseeable future. Rick Porcello, though not flashy, is pitching like the Red Sox envisioned he would when they dealt for him a season-and-a-half ago. Eduardo Rodriguez has overcome injury and delivery issues to fufull the promise he showed as a rookie. And Pomeranz could be an afforable middle-of-the-rotation for years to come.

Is Sale better than each one of them right now? Of course, Price included.

But is the Red Sox rotation so troubled that it must upgrade now or else? No. Is their an obvious weak link begging to be immediately replaced? No.

And this is not Chris Sale, free agent. This is Chris Sale, incredibly expensive trade piece.

What if they stripmined their minor-league system for Sale, and didn't win? Then what? What if they tore up their core of foundational players for Sale, only to find him incapable of surviving Boston?

As I confessed earlier, I'm don't know what the White Sox would want for Sale.

What I do know is that it would, by definition, almost certainly be too much.