BOSTON — Felix Doubront’s second start of the 2014 season was both a head-shaker and a head-scratcher.
Doubront lasted just 2 2/3 innings Tuesday as the Boston Red Sox suffered a 10-7 loss to the Texas Rangers at Fenway Park. The left-hander allowed five earned runs on six hits and three walks in an effort that makes it even more difficult than it already was to pinpoint what type of pitcher the Red Sox have in the middle of their rotation.
“It’s hard to explain,” said Doubront, who tossed two scoreless innings Tuesday before getting shelled in the third inning. “I don’t know what happened.”
Tuesday’s start was the shortest of Doubront’s career, which has been a rollercoaster ride, to say the least. Last season, Doubront struggled out of the gate, morphed into one of Boston’s most consistent starters for a three-month stretch, ended the regular season on a dismal note and then returned in the World Series to make two crucial relief appearances. The phrase “peaks and valleys” is a gross understatement.
This season has started off with similar highs and lows, leaving the Red Sox in a weird situation. While the 26-year-old frequently shows excellent potential, there still are performances like Tuesday’s that create questions as to whether he can take the next step and become a consistent force.
“I think he has (approached each start with confidence), and there’s probably been two innings (this season) where that hasn’t shown up — obviously, the third inning tonight and the one inning down in Baltimore (in his first start),” Red Sox manager John Farrell said after Tuesday’s loss. “I think he’s taken the mound aggressively. He’s attacked and challenged the strike zone, and yet tonight the third inning obviously was not the way it was intended.”
The last seven batters Doubront faced Tuesday reached base. He issued back-to-back walks to conclude his outing — something Farrell thought was a product of Doubront wearing down despite the pitcher’s insistence he still felt good during the third inning.
“It was fatigue at that point,” Farrell said. “This early in the season, he hasn’t had innings where he’s been stretched to above 30 pitches and the first time it was fatigue beginning to show up in that third inning.”
Doubront’s struggles — when they’ve occurred — typically have been a product of command issues, a lack of arm strength or things simply unraveling at the first sign of danger. It’s somewhat troubling for the Red Sox that those problems already have been on display this season, although, as we’ve seen, Doubront still has the natural ability to bounce back, even after getting knocked around like he did Tuesday.