At the start of the season, Felix Doubront appeared to be the Red Sox’ most consistent starter. And that sentiment just seems to continually ring true.
After a few rough outings in the middle of the season, Doubront looked to be regressing and was even rumored to be considered for a spot in the bullpen. But his nine-strikeout performance on Tuesday night just continued to prove that the 24-year-old starter definitely has what it takes to be the ace of the Boston staff.
Doubront threw six solid innings on Tuesday, allowing just four hits and two runs while whiffing nine on the night. The outing was Doubront’s third straight quality start and his fifth of the season, tying him for second on the team along with Jon Lester and trailing only Josh Beckett, who has six on the season.
Manager Bobby Valentine was impressed with Doubront’s outing in Tuesday’s 4-1 loss in Baltimore, crediting the pitcher’s toughness even in defeat.
“Felix Doubront had his good stuff,” Valentine said of his pitcher. “He was battling the whole way. He just picked a night when the opposing pitcher had good stuff and shut us down.
While Doubront isn’t quite the flame thrower that Daniel Bard may be — Doubront tops out around 94 mph, while Bard hits close to 100 on the gun — he has developed into a very quality pitcher. Doubront has displayed good command of his fastball and utilizes his breaking ball about as well as any pitcher on the Red Sox staff.
The only real concern with Doubront remains his ability to stay focused throughout an entire start. He tends to have one inning or even a small sequence of batters each game where his attention seems lacking.
That issue was highlighted during a four-run inning against Oakland earlier this year, and it appeared to resurface again on Tuesday night. The only difference this time was that Doubront seemed to catch himself after a two-run home run in the second inning, and he was able to re-focus his energy to get out of the inning.
But Doubront doesn’t always allow the lack of focus to impede his pitching, and his effort on Tuesday was a perfect sign of that. Doubront rebounded after the two-run shot to retire 14 of the next 15 batters, while picking up seven of his nine strikeouts during that stretch. That performance displayed the kind of pintpoint accuracy and uninterrupted concentration seen from other talented lefties like Jon Lester, Clayton Kershaw and Cliff Lee.
It’s not to say that Doubront is even near that level yet, as each of the listed are annual favorites for the Cy Young award. But with the sort of razor-sharp focus shown on Tuesday it’s not unreasonable to believe it could be possible.