PAWTUCKET — To say that Felix Doubront was merely okay in his rehab outing for the PawSox on Tuesday would be a fair and accurate assessment.
There were times when the lefthander appeared in control, mainly when he utilized his changeup and curveball. His velocity, however, suggested a pitcher who was content with the idea of keeping things under wraps – at least for now.
It all added up to a 4.2-inning stint where he was charged with two runs on six hits – all of which were struck with authority – as Pawtucket rallied to knock off Louisville in 10 innings, 4-3.
Making his second of likely three minor-league rehab starts, Doubront only threw a handful of pitches that registered above 90 miles per hour. He recorded seven swing-and-misses with three coming in the fourth inning.
Doubront freely admitted that velocity is not a concern at this point in time. He mainly featured a mid to upper 80s fastball, one that’s typically featured in batting practice or during an early-March spring training contest. On a 75-pitch limit, he finished with exactly 75 pitches and 44 strikes before PawSox manager Kevin Boles turned to his bullpen.
“It’s a process. I was trying to not force my mechanics to throw hard. I wanted to control my pitches,” said Doubront, who had three strikeouts and one walk. “I want to get the feel of all my pitches and throw all of them for strikes. The results, I can fix those later. I’m looking for strength and trying to get a little more velocity with my fastball. Right now, I feel good where I am.”
From his vantage point from behind the plate, Dan Butler felt Doubront got stronger and more comfortable the deeper he went. The PawSox catcher ended the game with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 10th inning.
“He was throwing all his pitches and seemed to have good life on the heater. He threw some good changeups, but you could tell his demeanor was good,” said Butler. “Later in the game, he was able to get down in the zone a little bit better and got some bad swings. Overall, he said he was happy with the way he threw the ball.”
The left shoulder issues that resulted in the Red Sox placing Doubront on the disabled list are no longer cause for concern. In nine starts with Boston, he went 2-4 with a 5.12 ERA.
“I don’t feel any shooting soreness or shooting pain [in his shoulder],” he noted.
Doubront’s most taxing inning came in the top of the first. He needed to throw 23 pitches, two of which resulted in back-to-back doubles and a run for the Bats. He retired the side in order in the second before again running into trouble in the third.
After a leadoff walk to No. 9 hitter Kristopher Negron, Doubront displayed some athleticism. On a bunt attempt by Jason Bourgeois, the southpaw hustled to his left before delivering an on-target throw to first baseman Travis Shaw. Unfortunately, the good karma vanished after Doubront forgot about Negron at second base; the shortstop stole third base rather easily.
Thomas Neal then hammered a 2-2 pitch up the middle to make it 2-0 Louisville. Further damage was prevented thanks to an inning-ending double play that Doubront started.
The fourth saw Doubront pitch he way around a leadoff single. There was a brief scare as the pitcher took a hard shot off the wrist before the ball deflected off his chest and chin. The good news is that he was able to regain his composure and nab the runner at first.
After a brief consultation with the training staff and pitching coach Rich Sauveur, Doubront returned to the task at hand.
“I felt no pain,” he said. “Those kinds of situations are going to happen often in the big leagues. It was a little bit scary, though.”
Doubront’s bid to last five innings disappeared after he issued a two-out walk. He’s expected to make another start for the PawSox next Sunday.
“He fought his delivery a couple of times, but that’s to be expected,” said Boles, who managed Doubront during the 2008 season in Single-A Greenville. “You can see the stuff coming out of hand and see why he profiles as a major-league starter.”
Two of the more regarded prospects in Boston’s system helped Pawtucket win for the third time in this four-game set against Louisville. Garin Cecchini shook off a 2-for-19 slump with a 3-for-5 performance that also included his second home run. He also scored the game-winning run.
Mookie Betts cut the PawSox’ deficit to one run in the seventh with a RBI single. Two batters later, Carlos Rivero evened things with a sacrifice fly.
Tommy Layne, Pawtucket’s sixth pitcher of the day, pitched a scoreless 10th to earn his fifth victory. Rich Hill (seventh), Jeremy Kehrt (eighth), Drake Britton (ninth) also tossed an inning of scoreless relief. Britton was reinstated off the disabled list prior to the game after missing the past few weeks with left elbow inflammation.
To get Britton back on the roster, the PawSox placed pitcher Jose Valdez on the disabled list with a left shin contusion. The move is retroactive to last Saturday.
Following a day off on Wednesday, the PawSox welcome Charlotte to McCoy Stadium for a four-game series that begins Thursday night at 7:05 pm. Knuckleball-throwing Steven Wright (0-1, 1.38) will get the ball for the locals while with Knights counter with righty Erik Johnson (1-3, 6.49).
With Clay Buchholz slated to make a rehab start for Pawtucket on Friday, it appears that Anthony Ranaudo will now pitch Saturday.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03