Doubront excited for opportunity to start

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Doubront excited for opportunity to start

FORT MYERS, Fla. Felix Doubront's first start of the spring, set for Saturday night at Boston College, would be significant enough given that the lefty is in competition with about a half-dozen other pitchers for the final spot in the Red Sox rotation.

But when you factor in that it's the start of a new season and a full step away from a forgettable 2011, it's truly noteworthy.

"I was thinking today," said a smiling Doubront, "that I'm a little bit excited to throw the ball again."

Doubront's 2011 season got off to a bad start and never got much better. After one of his first long-toss sessions last spring, he felt some tenderness in his left elbow and was shut down for a period of a few weeks.

He lost valuable time during exhibition play, taking him out of the battle for the major league staff. It would not be the last time that injuries interrupted his year.

He later had left groin and right hamstring pulls sideline him at Pawtucket. Each time, he was on the verge of being promoted to Boston to help out the major league staff. Each time, he missed the opportunity.

"I was close," he said ruefully, "and (the injuries) ruined it."

Called up when rosters expanded in September, Doubront, 24, managed to get into 11 games covering 10 13 innings, but it wasn't the kind of impact that Doubront had planned to make in 2011.

Healthy after a throwing program in the off-season, Doubront is in the crowded mix for the rotation, battling not only another lefty (Andrew Miller) and a righthanded holdover (Alfredo Aceves), but also some veteran free agents singed by the club this winter (Aaron Cook, Vicente Padilla, Carlos Silva and Ross Ohlendorf).

Like most of the others, Doubront has pitched in relief, too, but for now, his goal is aimed squarely at the rotation.

"There's a lot of competition, tough competition," he said. "But I'm going to go out there and do my job and work hard and show them that I want the fifth spot in the rotation."

Complicating matters at least a little bit is the fact that Doubront (like Miller) is out of options, meaning the Red Sox can't send him back to Triple A Pawtucket without first exposing him to waivers.

That may work to his benefit, since the Sox, like any any other organization, value talented, young lefties who can throw in the mid-90s.

"I have to make the team," said of his situation. "That's a challenge for me."

Most of Doubront's 23 major league appearances have come in relief, but he's mostly started in the minors and feels that's the best showcase for his ability.

"I've got my four pitches, including a new one, a cutter," said Doubront. "I think I have more options to (help) as a starter. I like relieving, too. I like the adrenaline (that comes with pitching out of the bullpen). But as a starter, you have more time (to figure
things out).

"For now, I'm a starter."

Starting Saturday night.

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

BOSTON -- Prior to this year, the Celtics hadn't been to the Eastern Conference finals since 2012. That trip served as a curtain call of sorts for the last great C's dynasty.
 
But this one, which ended with Cleveland's emphatic 135-102 Game 5 victory Thursday at TD Garden, is very different.
 
Rather than closing another chapter in the Celtics' longstanding legacy of greatness, it could serve as the beginning of a new narrative in the franchise's steady growth.
 
"For us to be in the Eastern Conference finals after the first year of this team really being together, adding additions like Al Horford and Gerald Green . . . I can go down the list of guys that we needed to learn to play with, and for us to talk about where we wanted to be and actually make it, it's a big-time accomplishment," said Avery Bradley.
 
Boston has been among the younger teams in the NBA, with the 31-year-old Green being the oldest player on the roster.
 
But what the Celtics lacked in experience, they made up for with great effort.
 
"The great thing about this is the experience," Bradley said. "We were able to go to the Eastern Conference finals, learned a lot about being in this position, and I feel like it's going to help us for next year."
 
But as we all know, the Celtics will look to strengthen themsevles this offseason, which means there's a very good chance they'll have a different look when they gather again in the fall.
 
How different is anyone's guess.
 
"It's difficult every year whenever you don't have guys back," said coach Brad Stevens. "I think you share a bond (over the course of a season)."
 
Stevens and this group have been together for eight months. Eight months of struggles, successes, frustrating defeats and euphoric victories that brought them to the conference finals, which is where their season came to an end.
 
But as disappointed as the players and coaches are inow, there's definite excitement about this franchise in the very near future.
 
Boston has the No. 1 overall pick in next month's draft, with all indications -- for now -- pointing to Washington's Markelle Fultz as their choice.
 
And their top first-round pick from a year ago, Jaylen Brown, seemed to steadily improve as the season progressed. It was one of the few times in his life where minutes weren't just handed to him, which he admits was a learning experience unlike anything he had ever had, yet he adjusted and played better as the year went along.

"I've had ups, I've had downs, I've had opportunities, I've had mistakes," said Brown. "So I've been learning and growing and improving all year and I'm going to continue growing and improving and prove people wrong, prove doubters wrong."
 
Having the season end the way it did has indeed left a bad taste in the mouths of many Celtics.
 
"I can use it as fuel," Brown said, adding: "I want to get back to the same place I'm at now."
 
Bradley, who was on the 2012 team that lost to the Miami Heat in the conference finals, knows the Celtics are going to do whatever they feel is necessary to give them the best chance at competing for a title.
 
"It's out of our control as players," Bradley said. "We had a great year together. If guys are here, if guys aren't, we all wish the best for each other.

"But I do feel this is a special group. We all gave our heart every single night, played as hard as we could. I respect all my teammates, and I really appreciated playing with all the guys I had a chance to play with this year; a special group."