Attitude adjustment: Can Doubront make bullpen transition?
Felix Doubront (right) is moving from the rotation to the bullpen, but
that doesn't necessarily guarantee the lefty a spot for the Division Series.
(Stuart Cahill/Boston Herald)
With all four spots in Boston's American League Division Series starting rotation spoken for, Felix Doubront is following fellow starter Ryan Dempster’s lead and taking a jog out to the bullpen.
But whereas perennial gamer and former closer Dempster is excited about the transition, Doubront seems less enthused.
The Venezuelan lefty has repeatedly stated he isn’t comfortable tossing in a relief role and was tight-lipped when asked about a possible move to the ‘pen after his last start Sunday against Toronto — a game in which he scattered two runs and four hits over seven innings to lock down his 11th win of the season.
Looking at the southpaw’s only relief appearance in 2013, it’s easy to understand why Doubront is apprehensive — and why Sox fans should be wary.
After a May 3 start in Texas in which he surrendered six runs on a dozen hits in just 3.2 innings, Red Sox manager John Farrell demoted Doubront to the bullpen. Five days later with the Sox facing the Twins at Fenway, Doubront came on to spell Allen Webster in the second inning with the Sox losing 6-5 and got torched to the tune of six runs on 11 hits and two walks in 5.1 innings.
Doubront isn’t sure whether he’ll have adequate time to mentally make the transition from starter to reliever, and Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves don’t have a lot of opportunities left to gauge how effective he can be in that role — while Doubront will be in the Boston bullpen for the two-game series that begins Tuesday in Colorado, Farrell said he won’t appear in a game situation until the Sox wrap up the regular season with a three-game set in Baltimore starting Friday.
That’s a limited timeframe in which to decide whether Doubront deserves one of the precious few lefthanded slots on the 11-man pitching roster for the best-of-five American League Division Series.
At present, the roster will consist of starters Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Clay Buchholz as well as righthanders Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, Dempster and Brandon Workman. Craig Breslow is a lock for a lefty spot, with Franklin Morales also a likely candidate.
That leaves Farrell with a Sophie’s Choice of either Doubront or Matt Thornton for the final lefthanded vacancy.
While Doubront has given a lift to Boston’s starting rotation all year — going 11-6 with a 4.08 ERA, including a stretch of 16 starts in which he posted a 2.73 ERA — and showed good poise, command and velocity against the Jays on Sunday, he’s unproven in a relief role and diffident about the move. Thornton, meanwhile, has been shaky out of the pen since coming over from Chicago in mid-July, but is a reliever by trade.
Of course, there's always a dark-horse lefty candidate in youngster Drake Britton, who has showed flashes of brilliance since being called up from the minors in July. Britton is 1-1 with a 3.43 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 21 innings of work.
“(Felix) is a very talented left-hander with a full complement of pitches. He has aptitude and a willingness to learn,” said Farrell.
However, Farrell also added that Doubront’s stamina and endurance can work against him.