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.

As expected, Red Sox send Swihart to Pawtucket

As expected, Red Sox send Swihart to Pawtucket

Blake Swihart wasn't going to win a job. Monday merely made that official.

Swihart was optioned out as the Red Sox made further cuts, sending a player who could still be the Red Sox catcher of the future -- well, one of them anyway -- to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he's expected to work on his receiving.

Swihart hit .325 in 40 Grapefruit League at-bats.

"Had a very strong camp and showed improvements defensively. Swung the bat very well," manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida.  "For the player that he is and the person that he is, you love him as a person. He's a hell of a talented player.

"He made some subtle adjustments with his setup [defensively]. That gave him a different look to pitchers on the mound. Pitchers talked positively about the look that they got from him behind the plate. I think it softened his hands somewhat to receive the ball better. And there were a number of occasions where he was able to get a pitchers' pitch called for a strike, so the presentation of the umpire was a little bit more subtle and consistent then maybe years' past."

Sandy Leon's hot hitting in 2016 earned him an automatic crack at the lead catching spot for this year. Combined with the fact that Christian Vazquez looks great defensively, went deep on Sunday and is out of options, Swihart was the obvious odd man out.

He had options, the others didn't.

Deven Marrero was also optioned to Pawtucket. Sam Travis -- who, like Swihart, could break camp with the 2018 team -- was reassigned to minor-league camp, as was catcher Dan Butler.

The Sox have 38 players left in camp, 32 from the 40-man roster.

Red Sox reliever Tyler Thornburg likely headed to disabled list

Red Sox reliever Tyler Thornburg likely headed to disabled list

Righty Tyler Thornburg seems a guarantee to join David Price on the disabled list to start the season.

Thornburg, the biggest acquisition Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski made for the bullpen this winter, was scratched Monday because of a spasm in his upper right trapezius — not a great sign for a pitcher who already had throwing shoulder issues this spring.

Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida the spasm was “not shoulder related.”  But the trap, a large muscle along the neck and back, does extend to the shoulder blade.

Dombrowski told reporters it is most likely that Thornburg starts the year on the disabled list. More is expected to be known Tuesday, possibly after an MRI.

Robby Scott could be a replacement for Thornburg. If so, the Sox would likely have three lefties in the bullpen, along with Fernando Abad and Robbie Ross Jr.

"Possibly. Possibly," Dombrowski said of Scott. “We still have to make those decisions. But possibly.”

Dombrowski didn’t indicate a desire to go outside the organization for now.

Thornburg had barely enough time to get ready for Opening Day prior to Monday’s setback. If he indeed starts the season on the DL, Joe Kelly would be the eighth-inning reliever for the Sox — a role Kelly was headed for anyway given Thornburg’s shaky spring.

Thornburg, 28, had a 2.15 ERA last season for the Brewers. The Sox picked him up at the winter meetings in a deal that sent Travis Shaw and prospects to the Milwaukee Brewers.