Felix Doubront’s Poor Relief Appearance Shows Left-Hander Isn’t Suited for Bullpen Role in Playoffs

Felix DoubrontWe might have seen the last of Felix Doubront in 2013.

Doubront has been on the bubble for the Red Sox’ ALDS roster, and he did nothing to help his cause during Boston’s 7-6 loss in Baltimore on Sunday. The left-hander looked awful in his first appearance since joining the bullpen, and it’s hard to envision the Red Sox trusting him in relief during a pressure-packed playoff game.

Doubront entered Sunday’s game in the fourth inning after Allen Webster — a late replacement for John Lackey — went the first three innings. Doubront walked Steve Pearce with one out, but otherwise took care of business. He got Ryan Flaherty to ground out, struck out Nate McLouth and retired Danny Valencia on a flyout while working a scoreless frame.

The fifth inning wasn’t so kind.

Seven of the eight batters that Doubront faced in the fifth inning reached base as the Orioles erased a 5-0 deficit. Doubront was charged with five earned runs on five hits and three walks before all was said and done. He labored through 55 pitches in his 1 1/3 innings of work, and John Farrell finally took the ball after McLouth ripped a game-tying, two-run double down the right field line.

There were questions before the outing about whether Doubront could handle pitching out of the bullpen. He doesn’t have much experience pitching in such a role, and he didn’t exactly instill much confidence recently when he said that the Red Sox have better relief options beyond him. Sure, honesty is the best policy (or so they say), but Doubront’s underwhelming approach to the matter should have immediately raised a red flag.

On Sunday, we saw that Doubront was correct in his analysis. Even with a roster spot seemingly up for grabs, the Red Sox do have better relief options. This isn’t to take anything away from the strides that Doubront made this season as a starter, but his style simply isn’t conducive with a relief role. Throwing him into a foreign situation and expecting him to thrive in October would be an injustice to both Doubront and the Red Sox.

Doubront said after Sunday’s game that he thinks he can handle pitching in relief, if that’s what the Red Sox want. But his comments again showed that there’s a level of discomfort when it comes to him pitching out of the ‘pen.

“As a reliever, I have to be more prepared for that, for those situations. As a starter, I can do everything there and help the team. I think I can do that,” Doubront told reporters in Baltimore. “It’s not the same [relieving], man. It’s not the same. You have to warm up, you have to stretch, you have to warm up quicker, you have to be ready in 10-20 pitches. As a starter, you stretch, run a little bit, long toss. Relieving, the long toss is right there. I can do it. I can do it. But today was my first time, you know? I have to practice that more on Tuesday, be more quick and get my arm ready. … And mentally, too, you have to be prepared mentally to be relieving and get ready faster.”

Doubront shouldn’t be knocked for his failed transition. The bullpen isn’t for everyone, and Doubront’s future remains in the starting rotation. But if the left-hander wanted a chance to make an impact in the ALDS, he needed to prove that he could change on the fly in order to fit the team’s needs. He didn’t do that.

Doubront hasn’t officially been left off the ALDS roster. But at this point, it’d be surprising to see him make the cut.

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

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