Felix Doubront has done a complete 180 in his last two spring training starts — and not for the better.
Doubront was knocked around by the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday, surrendering eight earned runs on 10 hits over 4 1/3 innings. It was the second straight rocky outing for Doubront, who gave up seven earned runs on 10 hits against the New York Yankees on Tuesday.
“There’s been a number of outings here in spring training where the repetition has been there,” Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in Fort Myers after Sunday’s 9-2 loss to the Rays. “He carried it very well through the first three starts and the last two have been less than (satisfactory). The consistency of the location, though, we’re looking for it to take a step in a more positive direction.”
Doubront arrived at camp in great shape, and the left-hander seemed to carry a newfound confidence into his first three starts — two major league games and one minor league game — of spring training. Catcher David Ross even said earlier this month — after Doubront’s second Grapefruit League outing — that the 26-year-old’s fastball command was like “night and day” over last season.
Things have been ugly during Doubront’s last two trips to the rubber, however, and it’s somewhat concerning that his poor starts have come against divisional opponents. Plus, Farrell said after Doubront’s start against the Yankees that the pitcher likely was dealing with some dead arm, which, while expected, isn’t out of the ordinary for the young southpaw.
Doubront has had issues with arm strength in the past, sometimes leading to diminished velocity. The Red Sox shouldn’t panic after two bad spring training starts, but Boston clearly still faces some of the same questions it faced last year with Doubront, who experienced both highs and lows.
If there was a silver lining to Sunday’s start, it was that Doubront struck out six and walked only two. He even settled down nicely in the third and fourth innings and built up his pitch count to 88, which could help his arm strength as the Red Sox prepare for the final week of spring training.
“Not really, not really,” Doubront told reporters when asked if his confidence was shaken after two subpar performances. “It’s just spring training. I’m waiting for the season to start. It’s not good to have that kind of score in spring training. I don’t want it in the season. Just work, that’s what I’ve got (to do).”
Doubront is expected to be the Red Sox’s No. 3 starter — behind Jon Lester and John Lackey — to begin the season.