Doubront impresses in first start of season

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Doubront impresses in first start of season

TORONTO -- Felix Doubront didn't pitch as deep into the game as the Red Sox would have liked. But while he was on the mound Monday night, there were no complaints.

Doubront allowed two runs on four hits while striking out six against the Toronto Blue Jays. The only problem was, thanks to his pitch count, he was lifted after five, having already thrown 101 pitches.

"That was a really well-pitched game by Felix," gushed manager Bobby Valentine. "He took spring training right into the game. I thought he had great stuff. His curve ball was terrific. His fastball was moving."

"I was pretty much focused on throwing strikes," said Doubront, who set a career high with his six strikeouts. "I was focusing on keeping the ball down, no matter what. I threw five innings and kept the score like that and waited for the team to get some runs and win the game."

Doubront said he understood the significance of the game after an 0-3 start in Detroit and concentrate on giving his team a chance to get its first win.

He also handled Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista expertly. Three times, Bautista came to the plate with runners on base and three times, Doubront won the battle.

The lefty got Bautista to hit into an inning-ending double play in the first, retired him on a flyout to right with two on and one out in the third and finally, got him to foul out weakly to third with a runner on first and one out in the fifth.

"I just kept the ball down and didn't elevate the four-seamer up," said Doubront. "He's a good hitter and he can do some damage if you leave the ball up over the plate. Pretty much, that was my approach to him -- keep the ball down. I did a pretty good job against him."

The only negative for Doubront was working deep into counts, and with it, running his pitch count up to the point where he could only give the team five innings.

"There were a lot of real close pitches," said Valentine. "I'm sure when the umpires get to know him and know that he's around the plate the way he is, he's going to get a lot more (calls his way)."

Does uncertainty for Carson Smith mean Red Sox need bullpen help?

Does uncertainty for Carson Smith mean Red Sox need bullpen help?

BOSTON — Tyler Thornburg’s gone for the season and there’s really no telling when the other set-up man the Sox expected to help in 2017, Carson Smith, will be back.

The Sox have already made inroads, if minor ones, in bolstering their third-base situation and rotation. Smith’s situation leaves a question of whether the Sox will need to pursue help in the bullpen as well.

There's not an easy answer to settle on at this point.

For one, the timetable with the right-hander Smith — whose shoulder has bothered him on the way back from Tommy John surgery — isn’t clear.

“He's in a no-throw [time] through the weekend,” Sox manager John Farrell said Friday afternoon at Fenway Park. “He'll be reevaluated on Monday to hopefully initiate a throwing program. He's responding favorably to the treatment. He continues to rehab as he's been. We have not closed the book in a sense on anything Carson can contribute this year.”

What does this year mean, though? Will they be able to know by July, by the trade deadline?

“Still too early to tell,” Farrell said. “We thought he was days from starting his rehab assignment after his last live BP session in New York [on June 6]. Unfortunately, that was put on hold for the time being. To get into any kind of timeframes, timetables, I don't know that any of us can predict that right now.”

The Sox relievers have done extraordinarily well without either Thornburg or Smith. Can that continue without reinforcements? The bullpen’s ERA entering Friday was 2.94, the second best mark in the majors. Its innings total, 217, was the second. lowest in the majors. 

So it’s not like the entire group is about to collapse from fatigue. But a guy like Joe Kelly, for example, isn’t someone the Sox want to use back to back.

It’s a young group and ultimately an inexperienced group. But Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has already fallen into the trap of trading for premium set-up men twice, and that’s a dangerous road to pursue again. Perhaps a smaller trade makes more sense.

“Well, at this point, we’re open minded to help,” Dombrowski said when asked if he was targeting either third-base or relief help. “I’m not going to get into specifics at this time on what else we’re looking for. Keep an open mind on a lot of ways on which we can improve. We have guys coming back and both the spots, I think Carson Smith is very important to us and our bullpen has pitched great. The other day, we struggled but that was one of the few times we really struggled all year. 

“I think Carson still has a chance to come back and help us this year.”

Blake Griffin opts out of Clippers contract, becoming free agent

Blake Griffin opts out of Clippers contract, becoming free agent

According to multiple reports, Blake Griffin has opted out of his contract with the Clippers, making him a free agent. 

Griffin is considered one of the top free agents in a class that will also include Utah’s Gordon Hayward. The Celtics have been reported as possible suitors for both players. 

The first overall pick in the 2009 draft, the 28-year-old Griffin is a five-time All-Star, though injuries have limited him over the last three seasons. 

Over 61 games, the 6-foot-10 power forward averaged 21.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game last season. Between numerous injuries and a suspension for hitting a member of the Clippers’ equipment staff, Griffin was limited to just 31 games in the 2015-16 season. 

Adrian Wojnarowski said recently that Boston’s reception for Clippers teammate Paul Pierce made a very strong impression on Griffin. Though there might not necessarily be a connection between the two, Griffin said on Barstool Sports’ “Pardon My Take” that Boston is on his Mt. Rushmore of NBA cities.