FORT MYERS, Fla. – Felix Doubront normally looks serious and focused, but his smile could not have been any wider Thursday afternoon after he pitched well in a minor league game.

“I’m pretty confident. I’m waiting for that talk,” Doubront said, anticipating being told he will begin the 2012 season as a starter with the Red Sox.

Alfredo Aceves spoke passionately after he pitched in a major league game Thursday (against mostly Blue Jays minor leaguers).

“My dream is to start,” he said.

And who knows if one of them will be a starter, or both, or none of the above.

The way Red Sox Manager Bobby Valentine talked after the games, you wonder if he has someone else in mind — and we’re not talking about the other candidate, Daniel Bard, who pitches today.

“I’d love to (set the rotation now) in a perfect world,” Valentine said. “But there might be some situations that I need to wait on before I make any declarations.”

Situations? What situations?

“Whether I get enough sleep at night,” Valentine said with a shrug.

There are so many descriptions applied to the vivacious Valentine.

Add vague and slippery.

In previous comments about his team’s pitching, Valentine said the organization had plenty of arms. It did not have to look outside the organization.

On Thursday, Valentine hedged on that a little.

“Every roster continues to evolve,” he said. “You allow it to evolve by bringing guys up if you feel they’re ready and better, and looking at what’s outside — which Ben (Cherington, the general manager) does religiously every day.”

So while Doubront, Aceves and Bard continue to compete for two starting rotation spots, the Red Sox appear to be looking elsewhere for help.

Maybe Boston is simply doing due diligence by looking around, or maybe there’s a “situation” brewing.

Doubront may be claiming one of the spots.

Valentine said it did not matter which pitcher pitched in the majors and minors Thursday, but it made sense not to have Doubront pitch against the Blue Jays.

If Doubront is the No. 4 starter, he will face the Jays in Toronto on April 11.

On Saturday, Doubront pitched six-plus innings against the Tampa Bay Rays’ high Class A team, facing 21 batters. He allowed two hits and one walk while striking out four. He threw 84 pitches, 62 for strikes. Add that performance to his 2.70 ERA in major league games this spring.

“I was a little bit pressured (this spring),” Doubront said. “I showed the manager and staff that I want to be on the team. And that’s what I did.

“To start is going to be amazing. That’s what I am waiting for, the opportunity to show the people who Felix Doubront is.”

Valentine seems to know.

“I’m very happy with Felix Doubront’s spring,” he said. “His pitches have continued to improve. Change-up is a very good pitch. Curveball is coming along. His fastball is very good, especially for a left-hander.”

Doubront was mainly a fastball pitcher when he spent the entire 2009 season in Portland. He continued to develop and was promoted after eight starts in 2010, eventually reaching the majors.

Now he is in a battle to stay.

Aceves will be on the major league club. He has shown he can be an effective reliever — more so than Doubront — and will be either a starter or reliever.

Aceves started and pitched six innings Thursday, allowing three hits, two runs (one earned) and two walks while striking out four.

“He pitched well. Ran out of gas a little at the end,” said Valentine.

Maybe running out of gas means he is headed to the bullpen. All Valentine would offer is “I think he’s one of the better pitchers we have in camp.”

Aceves sincerely wants to start, but he is a realist. Being a major league pitcher in the bullpen is not a bad way to make a living. Aceves said he would not be disappointed to relieve.

“No, because it is hard to get a (major league) job,” he said. “It’s a unique job. Not everyone can play baseball. I have to be glad to play for the Boston Red Sox.”

So, who are going to be the starters? Is there another arm out there, not currently in the Red Sox camp?

“There could be something different, but I’m not asking for it,” Valentine said.

To their credit, the Red Sox are not settling, but are working toward the best possible rotation. Until that work is done, Valentine will remain vague.

“I’d hate to say something is set and then say, ‘I was only kidding,’” Valentine said. “I’d rather be sure.”

 

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at [email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases