Felix Doubront caught the throw back from catcher Blake Swihart, paused only briefly, stepped on the mound and delivered his next pitch.
For four innings, Doubront needed only 43 pitches, 31 for strikes.
Quick and efficient.
A new and (the Red Sox hope) improved Doubront made a first rehab appearance Thursday night at Hadlock Field, the place the left-hander from Venezuela began to blossom years ago.
Doubront allowed two runs on three hits – all in the third inning – while striking out two and walking none.
More importantly, in terms of his rehab, Doubront felt fine
“Just feeling comfortable with mechanics and arm speed,” he said.
Doubront, 26, went on the disabled list after his May 20 start when he left early with a diagnosis of “shoulder fatigue.”
It was not like Doubront jumped out to a sizzling start with the Red Sox, going 2-4 with a 5.12 ERA.
In that stretch Doubront showed signs of his abilities, but there always seemed to be one bad inning and it usually came early in the game.
“Up and down,” Doubront said. “Some days I feel really good, other days bad. Then the shoulder issue happens. It’s something I’m taking care of right now.”
With Doubront and Clay Buchholz (also on the DL) scuffling, it only magnified the offensive woes of the Red Sox.
Doubront hopes to find health and consistency.
“My shoulder is lot better,” he said. “I wish I started my year the way I feel now.”
On Thursday, Doubront was not airing it out, his fastball in the high 80s, once hitting 90 mph.
He mixed in a handful of change-ups and curveballs.
“The goal was pacing myself without going too hard,” he said.
Sea Dogs pitching coach Bob Kipper said Doubront “was able to throw the baseball with no restrictions. The timing of his delivery was pretty good. Certainly a positive outing.”
Kipper mentored Doubront in 2010 when Doubront went 4-0 with a 2.51 ERA in Portland and reached the big leagues.
At the time, then-Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell raved about Doubront’s live arm.
And last year, Farrell, the new Sox manager, declared that Doubront had the best raw stuff of anyone in the rotation.
The key was mastering that talent.
Last year, Doubront showed off some of that talent, going 11-6 with a 3.87 ERA as a starter. He was sent to the bullpen for the postseason and responded, allowing three hits and one run in four appearances (seven innings).
That performance fuels speculation that Doubront could relieve again.
Rubby De La Rosa and Brandon Workman were summoned from Pawtucket to replace Doubront and Buchholz in the rotation. Farrell always speaks highly of Workman – who has never allowed more than three earned runs in a start – and De La Rosa pitched seven scoreless innings in his first start.
But an efficient Doubront could not only stay in the rotation, he could finally start fulfilling that much-hyped potential.
Farrell told media in Cleveland, where the Red Sox were playing the Indians, that Doubront will make two or three rehab appearances. That could push Doubront’s return to Boston as late as June 20 – if he comes back to the rotation.
“We’re going to look at two to three starts in rehab before we really take a look at where we are with everyone else on the staff,” Farrell told reporters. “We’ll take a closer look at that time.”
Doubront’s next appearance will be next week, likely in Pawtucket (the Sea Dogs are on the road). The Red Sox will be watching closely. An efficient Doubront could finally start fulfilling that much-hyped potential.
“Tonight was starting anew,” he said. “I want to be healthy and help the team (in Boston) to win games.”
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: