Doubront surprising Sox with his consistency

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Doubront surprising Sox with his consistency

BOSTON It wasnt until just a few days before the Red Sox broke spring training to head north for the season that Felix Doubront was informed he had won a spot in the rotation.

Now, after beating the Tigers, 7-4, at Fenway Park Monday afternoon, he leads the staff in wins with five and leads the starters with a 3.86 ERA.

Doubront (5-2) went six innings, giving up two runs on four hits and a walk with six strikeouts, snapping the Tigers four-game winning streak, and moving the Sox back to .500 (24-24).

I dont know that Id be surprised because I thought we were going to, out of spring training, have an offensive team that would give him a chance to win some games, said manager Bobby Valentine. But I didnt expect this kind of consistency, and every time he comes out of the game he thinks he could pitch more.

Doubront needed just 11 pitches to get through the first inning. He ended the inning by striking out Miguel Cabrera, swinging at a 93-mph fastball. He struck out Cabrera again in sixth, this time swinging at a curveball. With six strikeouts, Doubront is average 9.48 strikeouts per nine innings.

The outing was Doubronts sixth quality start of the season, behind only Josh Becketts seven on the staff. He has held opponents to two or fewer runs in six of his 10 outings, including each of his last four starts since May 12.

He did a great job, said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Just really went after these guys. Had a good fastball going. Just kind of pounded them away. Couple of non-damage home runs so no big deal. But he did a real good job.

Hes been consistent. You know what you're going to get from him every time out. Hes going to go after guys with his fastball and when he falls behind its usually with his fastball. So its not anything to really work on. Just got to continue going after them and grinding.

The two runs Doubront allowed came on solo homers one by Delmon Young with one out in the second, the other by Gerald Laird with two outs in the fifth. Entering the game, Doubront had given up just four home runs no more than one in a game over his nine previous starts, spanning 50.0 innings.

Those were mistake pitches, Doubront said. That doesnt affect me at all. I knew I threw the pitch bad and theyre going to score two home runs. But the big thing is realize what you do and just work on what happened and keep throwing.

Doubront threw 95 pitches, 64 for strikes, a respectable 67 percent strike rate.

First of all, you have to understand his stuffs tough to hit and so he gets ahead in the count and then they fouled a couple balls off, Valentine said. So theres pitches that are going to be thrown and he doesnt like to throw necessarily down the middle when hes ahead. But weve been talking about that 1-ball, 2-strike count and he had about another seven of them today. Thats pretty good. Wed like him to get one-pitch outs but its tough. His ball moves so much they get paralyzed off the first pitch. It takes some time for the hitter to kind of figure out what it is theyre swinging at.

For Doubront, it was just his 33rd big league start. He believed it was his best of the season. But, he knows its still a learning process.

Every outing Im learning more how to approach the hitters and today was, I think, I was more focused, he said. Throw the ball for strikes, get the hitters out quickly. Thats the result, that I was throwing the ball where I wanted.

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.