Felix Doubront Keeps Living on the Edge, Which Could Force Red Sox to Get Creative

Felix DoubrontThe Red Sox were in shambles during last week’s mailbag. This time around, things are much more pleasant in Boston.

The Red Sox have followed up their 3-9 stretch with a five-game winning streak, which included a three-game sweep of the Twins in Minnesota. Suddenly, Boston looks like the team that started off the season among the American League’s elite, and that has put a stop to the brief hysteria that was starting to settle in throughout Red Sox Nation.

There are still questions, though — there always are. And it just so happens you fired some of those pressing questions in my direction this past week. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Are the Red Sox a playoff team?
– Kelsey Beauvais

Nice. Let’s kick off this mailbag with a question that’s straight and to the point. After all, isn’t a playoff berth — and eventually a World Series title, of course — all that really matters at the end of the day?

Well, Kelsey, if you asked me this question on April 1, I would have told you, “no.” (Check out somewhere within the Twitter feed, if you don’t believe me.) I thought the Red Sox would be a lot more competitive than many people expected, but I also thought the American League East was too deep for them to earn a playoff berth.

Let’s just say my tune has changed.

There were two reasons I thought the Red Sox would at least be competitive: Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. And coincidentally, they’re the biggest reasons I now think the Red Sox are a playoff team. The tandem might not keep up its current pace, but it’s a two-headed monster that’s difficult for any opponent to deal with. If the rest of the rotation can be respectable, there’s no reason the Red Sox can’t be contenders come September and October.

I also think that the other teams in the AL East have some issues, which could ultimately help the Sox get into the postseason — whether it be via a divisional crown or a wild card berth.

The Yankees have battled through injuries, but you have to wonder if they’ll eventually falter, especially if the rotation doesn’t stay healthy. They were dealt a blow when Andy Pettitte went on the 15-day disabled list, and while that injury doesn’t appear serious, it really shows just how thin of a tightrope the Yankees are walking.

The Orioles’ offense has been potent, but I still think their rotation will lead to their demise. The Rays are dealing with a major issue when it comes to their ace, David Price, who has been placed on the disabled list after an awful start to the year. And the Blue Jays are an all-around train wreck.

The Red Sox, obviously, have some issues of their own, but I think they’re much more talented and much deeper than a lot of us gave them credit for before the season.

What is the status of Ryan Kalish? With Daniel Nava’s contributions, do they expect Kalish to still contribute with the Red Sox, or is he minor league-bound?
– Wesley Hoag

Ryan Kalish is somewhat of a forgotten character in the Red Sox’ mix right now, which is unfortunate, because I’ve always been a fan of Kalish’s game. I’d be very surprised, however, if he makes any major contributions at the big league level this season.

Kalish, who had offseason shoulder surgery, has been working down in Fort Myers — both physically and mentally, according to MassLive.com’s Evan Drellich. The hope is that he’ll be able to start swinging soon, and then at that point build up enough strength to start playing in games. All indications are that he’s progressing nicely, but the whole swing thing will be a huge step, as that’s where his injury was detected.

Perhaps if all goes well, Kalish can come back and be a nice outfield bench option when the rosters expand in September, but he’s most definitely minor league-bound when he’s first ready for game action. Kalish’s situation doesn’t have any impact whatsoever on Nava, who has been one of the Red Sox’ better players this season.

What is your opinion on Major League Baseball switching over to safer, softer baseballs — like children use? It would reduce injuries from players being hit with the ball. This would also make it far safer for spectators and enhance their experience at the ballpark. At the end of the day, it is just a game. No one should have to risk injury when it can be prevented. Looks to me like a no-brainer. Player safety “MUST” be made a priority. Sounds like progress to me.
– Anthony

Somebody get this guy a Shirley Temple.

Hey Rick, enjoy your stuff! Do you think it’s time to take Felix Doubront out of the starting rotation and make him the long reliever? Allen Webster needs a shot to start.
– John Lee, Colonie, N.Y.

Felix Doubront, in my opinion, is one of the most perplexing issues the Red Sox face right now. It’s not often that you see a pitcher’s velocity drop and his swing-and-miss ability essentially evaporate without any physical issues whatsoever, yet that’s the current situation with Doubront. John Farrell has said multiple times that the left-hander checks out fine physically despite a major decline in his overall stuff.

Doubront walked a tightrope last season because of his inefficiency and lack of command, but he survived more often than not. This season, that tightrope has become even thinner, and it seems like the Red Sox’ patience has as well.

For now, I think the Sox will continue to try to iron out the issues that are plaguing Doubront, who continuously racks up walks and teeters on the edge of disaster. But as I said in last week’s mailbag, I wouldn’t be shocked if Allen Webster ends up in the starting rotation by season’s end. If Webster pitched well in his second major league start on May 8, then we might not even be having this conversation, because the job could have been his. Webster’s rough outing essentially bought Doubront more time, and now it’s up to the lefty to show he still belongs in the Red Sox’ rotation.

If Doubront doesn’t right his ship, fails to find a rhythm, keeps walking an absurd amount and throws 15 million pitches through four innings each time out, then I agree that the Red Sox absolutely have to consider doing something. The difficult part is figuring out what that “something” is.

Doubront is out of options, meaning he’d have to pass through waivers in order to be assigned to the minors, so the long relief route that you suggest isn’t far-fetched. There aren’t many more true long relievers in the game today, but perhaps Doubront could assume some sort of role in the bullpen.

Is that ideal? No. But neither is Doubront’s performance thus far.

How come in every article — whether it’s written by you or Ian Browne — every time before John Farrell’s name you write “Red Sox manager?” Is this really necessary? Don’t you think everyone knows who John Farrell is by now?
– Jefferson, Worcester

You win, Jefferson. I’ll stop.

How’s Jose Iglesias doing in Triple-A?
– Taufiq Ramadhan

Short answer: not so hot.

Iglesias has struggled at the plate, and he was benched for three games recently for behavioral issues. PawSox manager Gary DiSarcina says he thinks Iglesias learned from the benching, but we’ll need to see how this whole thing plays out.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.