PAWTUCKET – The Red Sox are exercising supreme caution with Felix Doubront. After missing most of spring training with elbow tightness in his pitching elbow and beginning the season pitching exclusively out of Boston’s bullpen, the promising left-hander finds himself in the midst of building up his pitch count.
The process continued Tuesday as Doubront threw 64 pitches, which represents a 14-pitch improvement over his previous start. The alarming sign is that Doubront was only able to provide 3 1/3 innings in Pawtucket’s 7-2 matinee loss to Toledo.
Doubront was at 60 pitches when he took the mound in the fourth inning. He was taken out after fanning Cale Iorg, the same Toledo batter who delivered a two-run home run off of Doubront in the second inning, a shot that bounced on top of the fence in left-center before landing in the flower bed.
The problem wasn’t Doubront’s velocity, which generally resided in the 91-92 miles per hour range. It had to do with a lack of command, as the southpaw routinely missed up in the zone with his fastball.
“He would command it for one hitter and then not command it,” was the assessment offered by manager Arnie Beyeler. “That’s how you run your pitch count up too fast.”
Doubront allowed two runs on four hits with three walks and six strikeouts. His inability to provide at least five innings forced Beyeler to once again dip into his bullpen sooner than he would like. Toledo took the series, 3-1, as Pawtucket wound up using at least four pitchers in three of the contests.
Jason Rice absorbed the loss, allowing three runs (two earned) in 1 1/3 innings. Kris Johnson, who was taken off the temporary inactive list, gave up two runs in three innings while Scott Atchison and Rich Hill each totaled 2/3 scoreless innings.
Pawtucket’s lone bright spot was Hector Luna, who continues to mash at a frightening clip. The cleanup hitter delivered a run-scoring double in the first inning before belting a solo home run in the fourth. Luna’s 3-for-5 day upped his batting average to a robust .455. In eight games he’s amassed four homers and 11 RBI.
“He’s a professional hitter and shows why he’s got big-league experience,” said Beyeler about Luna, who has logged 311 major-league games between the Cardinals, Blue Jays and Marlins. “He gives you a good at-bat every time he’s up there.”
Victor Martinez concluded his two-day rehab stint as the Mud Hens’ DH, finishing 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored while driving in one. Martinez, who expects to rejoin the Detroit Tigers Wednesday after being sidelined since April 19 with a groin strain, was lifted for a pinch runner after doubling down the left field line in the seventh. Pitching to his former Boston battery mate and fellow Venezuelan, Doubront got Martinez to bounce into a 5-3 double play in the first. The two squared off again in the fourth with Doubront once again getting the better of Martinez with a strikeout.
The game was tied at 2-2 in the fifth before the Mud Hens went ahead to stay, putting up a three-spot. Martinez broke the deadlock with a single as Toledo’s other two runs were the result of a fielding error by PawSox second baseman Drew Sutton and run-producing groundout by Cesar Nicolas.
The PawSox will enjoy their first day off of the season on Wednesday before beginning a four-game series in Scranton on Thursday.