May 23, 2010

Kevin Thomas: Now Doubront is one step from majors

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — For a Portland Sea Dogs player, there are no greater words to hear from Manager Arnie Beyeler than a simple four-word sentence.

“Get out of here.”

Left-handed starter Felix Doubront got that message this past week and packed his bags, heading to Triple-A Pawtucket.

“Well deserved,” Beyeler said. “He came in last year and did what he needed to do. He matured.

“Then he came in this year, got it done and got out of here.”

While Doubront, 22, had a solid season last year (8-6, 3.35 ERA), he averaged less than five innings a start because of his inconsistent command. Yes, he had 101 strikeouts in 121 innings, but also 52 walks.

Doubront went 4-0 with a 2.51 ERA in eight starts with Portland. In his last four outings, he went 5⅔, 5⅔, 6 and 7 innings.

“He still is a work in progress, but so is everyone else,” Sea Dogs pitching coach Bob Kipper said.

Besides commanding his fastball better, Doubront’s change-up is much better and his hard curveball is coming along.

The biggest improvement, according to Kipper, is “his ability to handle the challenges of the game.”

Kipper always preaches that the game is not fair. Make a good pitch, jam a batter, and he ends up blooping a single over the infielders’ heads.

“But then you have to go out and execute another pitch,” Kipper said.

Doubront is handling the game better, and he is that much closer to the majors.

“Felix Doubront knows he is really closing the gap,” Kipper said.

BOSTON’S NEXT new starter may be Doubront. With Josh Beckett on the disabled list, the Red Sox are down to five starters. If someone else hits the DL, who would Boston call upon?

Junichi Tazawa is out for the year after Tommy John elbow surgery and Michael Bowden is struggling (6.03 ERA). Boof Bonser was thought to be the emergency starter, but he has been stuck on the disabled list. After two disastrous outings in April, he shut it down and has looked better since coming back May 7 (three earned runs over 11⅓ innings). But heading into this weekend, he had not pitched over 4⅓ innings in a game.

The Red Sox are going to have see Doubront in the majors eventually. He was placed on the 40-man roster last year and he will be out of minor league options after 2011.

JACOBY ELLSBURY’S return last week overshadowed Doubront’s promotion. Ellsbury showed he has recovered from four fractured ribs.

I’ve seen blog comments and heard radio callers question Ellsbury’s toughness because he has not come back sooner.

From broken ribs?

Maybe the criticism comes from the fact the initial diagnosis of Ellsbury was a bruise, and he was listed day to day.

“But a couple days went by and I felt the same,” Ellsbury said. “I couldn’t really get out of bed. Couldn’t really breath that well.

“Went in and got some more tests done. Came up with four fractured ribs. A lot of people don’t know that still. It was four fractured ribs. It has to heal before you can go out there and play.”

BESIDES PLAYING well, Ellsbury was his usual class act, enjoying his time back at Hadlock and appreciating the fans. When he made his first catch in the outfield on a routine fly ball, he received a huge ovation from the sold-out crowd Tuesday.

“That could have been one of my best catches of all time,” Ellsbury joked. “I think that was the best applause I’ve received for a fly ball.

“The fans were great. It was fun out there. It was pretty exciting to see that crowd.”

(Continued on page 2)

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