Doubront gets the Red Sox' message, comes to camp in shape

Doubront gets the Red Sox' message, comes to camp in shape
February 14, 2014, 6:45 am
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In each of the last two seasons, Felix Doubront reported to camp in less-than-optimum shape and without having done a lot of shoulder work during the winter.

Not surprisingly, both times Doubront's lack of conditioning caught up with him, forcing him to miss stretches of the season.

This winter, Doubront didn't make the same mistake again. Over two separate stints - one in December and another in January -- Doubront spent time at the IMG Sports Academy in Bradenton, Fla. and has already thrown five bullpen sessions before Red Sox pitchers and catchers report here Saturday.

"The big thing is, I feel great,'' said Doubront.

Doubront won 11 games in 29 starts last season, then contributed out of the bullpen in the postseason. But twice during the year he was yanked from the rotation because of poor performance, the result of shoulder fatigue and sloppy mechanics, which was a byproduct of not having built a better foundation for himself during the offseason.

The Sox made clear to the lefty that he needed to be more focused on his offseason training and Doubront got the message.

"I wish I knew of this place before,'' said Doubront of the IMG facility. "Everything went really well. They have everything there and I worked hard every day to get stronger.''

After six starts last year Doubront sported a bloated 6.40 ERA, stemming in part from a spring training that began poorly due to weight and shoulder issues.

Doubront worked with pitching coach Juan Nieves on the side to rebuild his shoulder strength and mechanics, which led to a stretch of 16 consecutive starts in which he didn't allow more than three runs.

But in early September, Doubront seemed to hit a wall again. After allowing 10 runs in two starts, covering just 7 1/3 innings, in early September, he was yanked from the rotation and made only one start in the final three weeks.

Now, he's hoping the winter work will benefit him this summer and fall.

''That's why I did it,'' he said, "to be strong and healthy during the year. That's a big part of this year for me. I'm going to change it, that's the goal I'm going to set this year -- to be strong the whole year. It's a big year for me, so I have to work hard.''

One of his goals is to reach the 200-inning level that teammate Jon Lester regularly reaches. Last year, he notched 162 1/3 innings, just an inning-and-a-third more than the season before.

"That's the first goal that I have,'' he said. "That, and to stay healthy the whole season. It's simple. I want to learn more and be a strong, starting pitcher.''

After initially signaling that he had little interest in pitching out of the bullpen last September, Doubront relented and sparkled in the postseason. In four appearances -- two in the ALCS and two more in the World Series -- Doubront pitched seven innings combined and allowed just one run on three hits. But as exhilarating as those outings were, he made clear Thursday that he sees himself solely as a starter.

As spring training begins, Doubront finds himself in a crowded rotation. The Sox have six starters -- Doubront, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Ryan Dempster, Jake Peavy and Clay Buchholz -- fighting for five spots. Barring an injury or trade, that's one too many.

Doubront, however, isn't caught up in the numbers game.

"I don't know anything yet,'' he said. "It's going to be their decision. I'm going to do what I do best and just try to keep it that way and see after spring training what everyone's role is going to be.

"I'm just going to do my job and that's it.''