PAWTUCKET â€“ The Felix Doubront the Red Sox thought they were getting this season has yet to surface. Thatâ€™s why Mondayâ€™s brief cameo should be viewed as a step in the right direction.
The lefty Doubront came off the disabled list to toss three and one-third shutout innings against the Norfolk Tides Monday, a contest that saw the Pawtucket Red Sox fall in 13 innings by a 5-4 final. He permitted only one hit, with two walks and five strikeouts. On a short pitch-count leash, Doubront was removed after reaching 47 pitches (29 strikes), the last a 90 mile per hour fastball that struck out Norfolkâ€™s Brandon Snyder swinging.
There were signs that Doubront is still a ways away from returning to the form he displayed as an up-and-comer last season. His fastball, generally clocked in the low 90s, sat between 87-89, hitting a high of 91 according to the McCoy Stadium radar gun. The ability to change speeds effectively was there, as Doubront threw a number of breaking pitches in the low 70s.
â€śThe good thing is that I felt nothing [wrong] with my groin,â€ť said Doubront. â€śMy lower body feels pretty good.â€ť
Doubront came out ready to throw and make up for lost time. He needed just eight pitches to retire the Tides in order in the first inning, seven of which went for strikes. His first four pitches of the second inning were balls, walking Josh Bell. On the next pitch, he induced John Hester to bounce into a 5-4-3 double play. The only hit Norfolk amassed against Doubront was a two-out single to No. 9 hitter Blake Davis in the third inning.
In some regards, this is still spring training for Doubront. Elbow tightness, a setback suffered during spring training, delayed his first appearance of the year. He landed on the D.L. on May 13 after a side session in the bullpen went awry.
â€śThey told me for this first start that I would be around 55 pitches. The next time it will be up to 75,â€ť said Doubront.
Itâ€™s not far-fetched to think Doubront would have been promoted to Bostonâ€™s starting staff after Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey went down with injuries.
â€śIâ€™m keeping my mind clear, not thinking about what could have happened,â€ť said Doubront, who lowered his ERA from 1.98 to 1.59. â€śI feel good and Iâ€™m ready to continue the season.â€ť
The PawSox ended up playing extras after first baseman Lars Anderson came through with a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the ninth. Anderson collected his team-leading 15th multi-hit game after finishing 3-for-6 with two RBI. In the sixth Anderson delivered a run-scoring triple to bring Pawtucket to within one at 4-3.
â€ś(The media) complains that he doesnâ€™t have any power numbers, but he drives the ball and has good at-bats,â€ť defended PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler about Anderson. â€śEveryone wants to see the home run numbers, but heâ€™ll hit home runs. Heâ€™s a young kid and heâ€™ll learn how to turn on the ball.â€ť
Who did belt a home run was Norfolkâ€™s Brandon Snyder. The Norfolk first baseman snapped a 4-4 game in the 13th with a booming solo home run that landed off the warehouse in dead center. Snyderâ€™s prolific shot made a loser out of PawSox reliever Clevelan Santeliz.
Pawtucketâ€™s biggest problem was that it stranded 16 baserunners. Tony Pena Jr. followed Doubront and surrendered four runs in his 3 1/3 innings. One of the runs was a solo home run to Bell, which came on the second pitch of Pena Jr.â€™s outing. Tommy Hottovy and Blake Maxwell combined for 5 1/3 scoreless innings.
Norfolk 000 102 100 000 000 1 â€“ 5-10-1
Pawtucket 000 011 101 000 0 â€“ 4-11-1
Rick Vandenhurk, Troy Patten (7), Pat Egan (7), Armando Gabino (9), Josh Rupe (12) and John Hester. Felix Doubront, Tony Pena Jr. (3), Tommy Hottovy (7), Blake Maxwell (9), Clevelan Santeliz (13) and Luis Exposito, Michael McKenry (13). 2B: Nick Green. HR: Josh Bell, Brandon Snyder. 3B: Lars Anderson.
WP: Rupe (2-1). LP: Santeliz (L, 1-2).