Felix Doubront Earning Respect as Legitimate Starter From Umpires and TeammatesBOSTON — Before this victory, Felix Doubront wasn't getting the calls.

As a rookie pitcher, the tough treatment from umpires was expected. His borderline pitches on the corners were constantly ruled balls. At one point — against the Royals last Monday — he started reaching a boiling point with the umpires' decisions.

During Saturday's 4-1 victory, though, those challenges were nonexistent. For the first time in his major league career, Doubront started receiving strike calls as he painted the corners of the zone with fastballs and cutters.

It signifies a notable moment in Doubront's development. Slowly but surely, the lefty is earning respect as a legitimate starting pitcher. That's not bad for a player who was competing for his professional life in spring training.

"I think word is getting around a little — if you watch him pitch, there's so many at-bats when he has two strikes on hitter really quickly," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. "It's because he's not afraid and has good stuff, and maybe word is getting around."

Efficiency continues to hinder his progress, though. After six innings, Doubront reached his ceiling relatively quickly, unloading 109 pitches before giving way to Andrew Miller and Vicente Padilla to maintain the momentum.

Even so, Doubront has emerged as a key cog in the Red Sox' starting rotation. With his five strikeouts Saturday, he's totaled 37 punch-outs — that's an 8.69 per nine innings — to lead the pitching staff.

"I'm going to get better every day, every start," Doubront said. "I'm just waiting for that moment to go more deep in the game. But I feel fine, throwing six innings, more than six innings. That's my game plan. If I throw six innings and I've got less pitches, let's throw the seventh. But that's my mindset."

Doubront has toiled on the Red Sox roster for three years, but he's finally living up to the billing. Had he covered first base quicker in the sixth, he would have likely tossed six scoreless innings.

Still, Saturday's outing marked the fifth time in seven starts that Doubront fanned at least five batters. No other Red Sox starter — in a rotation with Jon Lester and Josh Beckett — has tallied more than three such starts.

After collecting his second straight victory, Doubront now has a fan in teammate Cody Ross.

"[Doubront] wasn't content with just winning the fifth starter spot," Ross said. "He wanted to come in and show people that he's a major league pitcher and he can pitch in this league, and he's done it so far."

With each outing, Doubront is starting to pile up the respect from umpires, teammates and opposing hitters. Like Valentine said, word is spreading.

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