July 18, 2010

On Baseball: Shuffling on up, shuffling down: That's the Sox

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BOSTON - With Clay Buchholz ready to rejoin the Boston Red Sox, Felix Doubront is headed back to Triple-A.

Doubront has pitched well enough to merit a return, allowing a total of seven earned runs in his three starts.

There are two things the Sox should have Doubront focus on in Pawtucket:

Fielding.

Relieving.

Doubront's two throwing errors led to his downfall in Friday's loss. He allowed four runs (two earned), but could have had a scoreless start if he had made a good throw to first base in the first inning and to second in the fifth inning.

As for relieving, Doubront could be an effective, left-handed piece in the Boston bullpen.

Currently, Boston is grooming right-hander Michael Bowden as a reliever, using him in different relief situations for Pawtucket.

Bowden's future may be in the pen. Doubront's is not. He is a starter for the future, and he looks uncomfortable when asked about relieving.

"It would be hard," Doubront said Friday night, standing in front of his temporary locker in the Fenway clubhouse. "But I would do it.

"If they want me in the bullpen, I'll do the work."

The Red Sox could obviously use the help. They brought up Fernando Cabrera from Pawtucket. He followed Doubront on Friday by walking two batters and then giving up a grand slam.

And Boston could use a solid left-hander out of the bullpen. Left-handers are hitting .158 against Doubront in the majors (and .059 against him in Triple-A).

Remember when Tampa Bay left-hander David Price reached the majors in 2008? He helped shut down Boston in the ALCS. Price had a 1.59 ERA in five postseason relief appearances. 

MORE ROSTER MOVES are coming. Besides Doubront's demotion to Triple-A, the Red Sox also sent Cabrera back to Pawtucket, called up catcher Dusty Brown and activated reliever Manny Delcarmen from the disabled list.

Boston also needs to open a roster spot for Buchholz, who is scheduled to start Wednesday at Oakland. Outfielder Jeremy Hermida is on the way back, and depending on Josh Beckett's performance Saturday night for Pawtucket, he could rejoin the rotation this week.

"When guys are ready, we'll put them where we think they belong," Manager Terry Francona said. "We try not to make a rash decision. We'll have it figured out.

"(The decisions) are not just based on today or tomorrow, but organizationally."

Performance is not the only factor in moving players. Their contracts and minor-league options (or lack of them) also play a role.

That's why Daniel Nava, who is batting .294, may be in Pawtucket by the end of the week. Nava made his major-league debut this year and has plenty of minor-league options left. He can go up and down to the minors.

Outfielder Darnell McDonald, who made his major-league debut in 2004, has no minor-league options left.

Remember, the Red Sox almost designated McDonald for assignment in May and surely would have lost him to another team before changing their mind because of Jacoby Ellsbury's uncertainty over his rib injury.

Also, with the left-handed Hermida back soon, Boston will want the right-handed hitting McDonald, who is batting .271. The switch-hitting Nava is better batting left (.323) than right (.200).

When Beckett comes back, that should mark the end of Tim Wakefield in the rotation. Assuming that's the case, Wakefield would go to the bullpen, knocking another pitcher down to Pawtucket.

Down the road, the Red Sox expect to welcome back catcher Victor Martinez, infielder Jed Lowrie, second baseman Dustin Pedroia, Ellsbury, catcher Jason Varitek and backup first baseman Mike Lowell.

Current catchers Kevin Cash and Gustavo Molina, first baseman Ryan Shealy and infielder/outfielder Eric Patterson will be among the players to go (although Cash could hang around as the third catcher in September, depending on the timing of Varitek's return). 

ALUMNI REPORT: When the New Hampshire Fisher Cats were in town recently, the Toronto Blue Jays' new roving hitting instructor also came to Portland for the first time in eight years.

Anthony Iapoce hadn't been at Hadlock Field since he played for the Sea Dogs in 2002, Portland's last year as a Marlins affiliate.

Iapoce, now 36, played in Triple-A in 2003, and then the independent leagues for two seasons before becoming a coach. He was a hitting coach in the Marlins' organization before the Blue Jays signed him this season. 

THE ANNUAL PICNIC in the Park will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Besides a picnic lunch, with hamburgers and hot dogs, players will be available for autographs. The price is $15. Call 879-9500 or go to www.seadogs.com for more information. 

MAINE DAY is today at Fenway Park. Winter Olympians Seth Wescott and Julia Clukey will be recognized. Susie Stauble (Miss Maine 2009) will sing the national anthem, and Joe Bennett, a teacher from Bangor, will sing "God Bless America." 

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:

kthomas@pressherald.com

 

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