BOSTON — Felix Doubront gave the Red Sox 5 1/3 innings out of the bullpen on Wednesday. But to say he provided “relief” would be an unfair assessment.
Allen Webster was roughed up in his second major league start. He didn’t make it out of the second inning, and he came away from the game charged with eight earned runs. Webster isn’t the pitcher to be concerned about, though. That honor instead belongs to Doubront, who turned in another alarming performance.
Minnesota’s hit parade kept on rolling against Doubront, who ended up surrendering six earned runs on 12 hits while tossing 105 pitches. He ate innings, which is something the Red Sox desperately needed at that point, but his stuff was once again subpar, especially in comparison to his first few starts.
“One thing that’s a little concerning with Felix is that while he’ll get ahead of certain hitters, he still lacks the ability to put some guys away, and we’ve seen that the last two outings here from him,” manager John Farrell said following the Red Sox’ 15-8 loss to the Twins.
Doubront gave up six earned runs on 12 hits on Friday as well. That effort set the tempo for a disappointing weekend sweep in Texas, and it further magnified the lefty’s ongoing issues. Everything has checked out fine physically for Doubront, yet his velocity is down and his stuff isn’t nearly where it was to begin the season. That has the Red Sox scrambling a bit.
“Still, even with stuff that might be a little bit reduced from what we’ve known him for, we’ve got to pitch accordingly. That is to still locate,” Farrell said. “Every time they showed a replay, it seemed like a ball found the middle of the plate, and even when he was ahead in the game. The finishing or the lateness to the stuff is not as sharp as we’ve seen, but that’s the plan right now.”
The plan is for Doubront to make his next scheduled start in the rotation, but the results will need to be far better than what they’ve been his last two times out. Otherwise, it’ll become harder and harder to justify rolling him out there.
Doubront’s ERA has ballooned to 6.40, and it’s because he’s been unable to finish guys off. Doubront has a reputation of walking a lot of batters and running up high pitch counts early on in games, but he often survived such struggles because he had good swing-and-miss ability. Now that his velocity is down, and his stuff doesn’t have the same bite, his strikeout totals are falling, and his overall effectiveness is suffering.
“Improvement on getting ahead of hitters and putting them away is very important,” Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves said after Wednesday’s game. “We saw it in Texas, and we saw it today — a lot of two-strike base hits and pitches that were in the zone. We’ll continue on that in the bullpen. I feel sorry for the bullpen guys, but we’ve got to work on put-away pitches.”
It’s almost as if Doubront is hitting a wall. Since we’re less than two weeks into May and talking about a pitcher who showed up to spring training with arm soreness, that doesn’t bode well for the Red Sox’ rotation.
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