The Big Pitcher, Part 3: Dubious about Doubront

The following is the third of five in a series focusing on the Red Sox starting pitchers.

Jan-Christian Sorensen
Contributing Writer

Submitted for your approval: the curious case of Felix Doubront, whose only assurance for the Red Sox thus far this season has been his exasperating ability to be consistently inconsistent.

Doubront opened the 2013 season on a down note in Toronto on April 5, giving up three earned runs on nine hits as the Sox came back to win the game late and allow Doubront to get off the hook with a no decision.

Following that, the Venezuelan lefthander reeled off three straight wins in the middle of a magical April for the Red Sox. Against Cleveland April 16 he went five innings, giving up two earned runs on four hits while striking out seven in a 7-2 Sox win. In a 9-6 win over Oakland April 22, Doubront went 6.2 innings, giving up three runs on three hits and fanning eight. On April 27 in an 8-4 win against Houston, Doubront again went six and two-thirds, allowing three runs on four hits and striking out eight.

Then the wheels came off.

On May 3 in a 7-0 loss to Texas, Doubront didn’t even make it four innings, allowing six earned runs and 12 hits on 97 pitches to take his first loss of the season. Following that game, Doubront was demoted to the bullpen, but didn’t fare any better in that role. On May 8 coming in on mop-up duty after Allen Webster got shelled in an eventual 15-8 loss to the Twins, Doubront only poured gasoline on the flames, surrendering 11 hits and six earned runs and watching his ERA balloon to a season-high 6.40.

Since that dreadful stretch, Doubront has twice pulled no decisions while suffering one loss in Chicago’s 3-1 win over Boston May 21.

One of those slate-wiping no-decisions came during Sunday’s high-octane, last-gasp win against Cleveland. While Doubront put in a solid effort (six innings, eight Ks, two earned runs, five hits, two walks), he would have had to shoulder another loss if Jacoby Ellsbury and the rest of the Sox offensive corps — and, let’s be frank, Indians reliever Chris Perez, who was forced to leave with a shoulder injury — hadn’t bailed him out in the ninth inning.

There have been plenty of questions surrounding Doubront since spring training, when he arrived to camp overweight and then was temporarily shelved with inflammation in his throwing shoulder.

While it’s unclear at this point if those shoulder issues are the primary cause of his erratic outings this year, there’s a possible correlation to be found in Doubront’s velocity, which is down significantly from last year. According to, the velocity on Doubront’s fastball has dipped from 92.8 mph last year to 90.1 mph in 2013, while his two-seamer is down from 92.5 mph to 90 mph this year. Similarly, his cutter is down to 85.7 mph from 87 mph last year and his changeup has dropped from 85.4 mph in 2012 to 83.2 mph this season.

It’s worth noting that Doubront tossed a career-high 161 innings in 2012, but even the lefty says the cause of the dead-arm issues are a mystery.

"It's weird man, it's nothing (physically) that bothers me," said Doubront, who was hitting 92 and 93 mph in spring training. "So weird, I can't explain. Just keep throwing and we'll see."

Doubront has also had trouble putting batters away when in the driver’s seat. Entering Sunday’s game, opponents were raking at a .462 clip (six-for-13) against Doubront on 0-2 counts. On Sunday the Indians went two-for-five with a two-run single and a home run against Doubront when down 0-2.

Red Sox manager John Farrell has also been trying to solve Doubront’s issues with finishing hitters off.

“Maybe just kind of rushing through the at-bat and not continuing the same approach,” said Farrell of Doubront’s bad record with 0-2 counts of late. “Thinking the at-bat might be over before it actually is. He gets ahead of (Jason) Kipnis with two fastballs and then he misses with another fastball 0-2 for the home run. He threw two pretty good off-speed pitches to (Carlos) Santana and he backed up the curveball with another one. Strikes against very good hitters, you better miss to the extreme and that hasn’t been the case.”

“Even though he continues to make progress, I thought (Sunday) was another step in the right direction overall, and yet you can pinpoint a couple of things he can be better at for sure.”

One of those things is going deep into games. Doubront still hasn’t completed seven innings in a start this year, but that’s at least consistent with 2012, when he was only able to go seven innings of work three times in 29 outings.

At least the Sox aren’t out a lot of cake on a middling, stopgap, back-end of the rotation starter with reliability issues. Doubront, who is 16-14 for the Sox with a 4.95 since 2010, is only owed $518,000 in 2013, and is projecting the 26 year old to finish the year with a 9-6 record and a 5.29 ERA. 

To date, the Red Sox starting pitching corps is ranked first in the American League in innings pitched (311.2) and second in the AL in wins (23), strikeouts (309) and average against (.236). Sox starters are third in the AL in both ERA (3.70) and hits allowed (277). On the downside, Sox starters are leading the league in walks, issuing 127 free passes.

Twitter: jan_doh