Ortiz, Doubront shaking off spring struggles

Ortiz, Doubront shaking off spring struggles
March 23, 2014, 5:30 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Spring training results, it's often said, don't matter.
It's a time for veterans to prepare for the season, get their timing down and work on some things.
At some point, however, extreme results -- good or bad -- warrant closer attention.
Take Felix Doubront and David Ortiz.
Doubront was shelled for the second straight outing Sunday, charged with eight runs on 10 hits against the Tampa Bay Rays in just 4 1/3 innings. The shellacking came on the heels of another poor performance, during which Doubront gave up seven runs on 10 hits against the Yankees in 3 2/3 innings.
As for Ortiz, he was hitless in three at-bats yesterday with two strikeouts. That leaves Ortiz with just two hits in 35 at-bats (.057) with 12 strikeouts.
Doubront's recent struggles on the mound are made all the more confounding by the fact that in his first Grapefruit League appearances this spring, he pitched six scoreless innings and allowed just three hits.
Last week in Tampa, after being drilled by the Yankees, Doubront attributed the poor showing to losing his release point and other mechanical issues.
"I left the ball up, a couple of unfinished pitches,'' said the lefty. "It's nothing to worry about. I'll just keep working and try to make the adjustment in my next outing.''
After allowing six hits in the span of nine hitters in the first and second, Doubront appeared to find himself in the third and fourth, registering three strikeouts in those two frames.
But trouble started again in the fifth when he gave up a three-run homer to Matt Joyce, ending his outing before the inning could be completed, at 88 pitches.
Nonetheless, Doubront said he felt "pretty good'' about his mechanics.
"I left the ball a little bit behind on my release point,'' he said. "Like I said, it's nothing to worry about. Just keep working and be better next time.''
He insisted that his confidence hasn't been shaken by two back-to-back poundings -- by division opponents, no less.
"Not really, not really,'' he said. "It's just spring training. I'm waiting for the season to start. It's good to have that kind of score in spring training. I don't want it in the season. Just work -- that's what I've got (to do).''
Even with the ugly pitching line, John Farrell said the quality of Doubront's pitches were improved over the start against the Yankees.
"I thought he had better life to his stuff, overall,'' said Farrell. "There were a number of mislocated pitches. He was trying to go arm-side and he ended up pulling some balls back across the plate.''
The Sox tinkered with his delivery some over the winter and Doubront seems to be still struggling to repeat the re made mechanics.
"There's been a number of outings here in spring training where the repetition has been there,'' said Farrell. "He carried it very well through the first three starts and the last two have been less than (satisfactory). The consistency of the location, though, we're looking for it to take a step in a more positive direction.''
Worries about Ortiz would seem less grounded. As recently as October, Ortiz hit .688 in the World Series and terrorized opponents for the entire month of post-season play.
That followed a year in which he posted an OPS of .959 and was one of just three players in the game to hit .300 with 30 or more homers and a 100 or more RBI.
"It's going to be fine,'' said Ortiz, bemused at the interest his generated by his struggles. "Spring training doesn't mean (anything) to me.''
Asked if he could focus on one particular issue for his slump, Ortiz chuckled and said: "Intensity . . . motivation. I just go through spring training and say whatever. I know what I have to do to get ready for the season, so spring  training isn't going to worry me about anything.''
"Like we mentioned the other day,'' said Farrell, "not concerned with him. David's going to be fine. Going back to watching the bat speed, seeing the ball come of the bat in BP, his timing's going to be fine.''