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.

Bryan Holaday: David Price 'takes a lot of pride in what he does'

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Bryan Holaday: David Price 'takes a lot of pride in what he does'

BOSTON -- There have been a significant amount of question marks surrounding David Price throughout his inaugural season with the Boston Red Sox.

Is he an ace? Is he mentally tough enough? Can he handle Boston?

Just to name a few.

Much like any player imported to Boston, the claim “He can’t handle the pressure in Boston” arises every so often.

And Price hasn’t always been his own best friend, frequently relying on the line “It’s me going out there and making pitches,” in addition to the claim that he’s never satisfied.

Price’s mellow demeanor isn’t something Boston fans are accustomed to -- they prefer Rick Porcello snarling at opponents.

Sometimes it might have seemed as if he lacked a killer instinct or didn’t have a sense of urgency, but Bryan Holaday, who played with Price in Detroit, has seen that’s not the case.

‘I’m sure he [pressing], it’s the nature of this game,” Holaday said about Price’s struggles earlier in the season. “Everybody wants to be at their best all the time and it’s not easy to do.”

However, he says that knowing full well that Price won’t display those emotions -- to anyone.

“He does such a good job on the mental side of things that even if he was, you wouldn’t be able to tell,” Holaday said before Price’s start Saturday night. “He’s never going to express anything like that. If he was [pressing], it’s nothing that anyone would be able to notice.”

There’s a lot to be said for that, too. Although baseball is driven on analytics, there’s no question that mental game is crucial, especially in the clubhouse. And a fly on the wall can easily see that Price’s presence is not only respected, but enjoyed by his teammates in the clubhouse.

“Everyday he gets up he wants to get better and that’s what makes him so good,” Holaday said. “He has that drive to be better everyday and come out and do his job. He takes a lot of pride in what he does and works his ass off. That’s why he is who he is. Any pitcher at that level, you don’t get that way by luck.”

Price may never be Boston’s favorite pitcher.

He may never be the “ace” in everyone’s eyes.

But based on Holday’s interpretations from his time in Detroit and Boston, Price will work hard to turn his first few months with the Red Sox into a minor footnote of his career.

Saturday's Red Sox-Royals lineups: Young in LF, Hill at 3B vs. KC lefty Duffy

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Saturday's Red Sox-Royals lineups: Young in LF, Hill at 3B vs. KC lefty Duffy

The Red Sox look to end their three-game losing streak tonight when the play the middle game of their three-game series with the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park.

Against Royals' left-hander Danny Duffy (11-1, 2.66 ERA), the Red Sox start right-handed hitters Chris Young in left field and Aaron Hill at third base. Duffy has won his past 10 decisions and came into Saturday with the fifth-best ERA in the American League. He joined the rotation from the bullpen on June 1.

Left-hander David Price (12-8, 4.00) gets the start for the Red Sox. Price has won his past three decisions, going eight, six and eight innings and not allowing more than three runs in each start. 

The Royals won the series opener 6-3 Friday night.

The lineups:

ROYALS
Paulo Orlando CF
Cheslor Cuthbert 3B
Lorenzo Cain RF
Eric Hosmer 1B
Kendrys Morales DH
Salvador Perez C
Alex Gordon LF
Alcides Escobar SS
Christian Colon 2B
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Danny Duffy LHP

RED SOX
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Sandy Leon C
Chris Young LF
Aaron Hill 3B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
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David Price LHP