Fill-In Options for Felix Doubront in the Starting Rotation

Allen WebsterFelix Doubront landed on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday afternoon and will likely need a replacement for at least the next couple of weeks after being diagnosed with left shoulder fatigue.

The Boston Red Sox may go with Chris Capuano for a spot start or two, but there are other options down in the minors who might be a better look until Doubront can get back on the field.

1. Allen Webster: The sinker-baller had some trouble finding his command last season in the majors and still has a 39-22 K-B ratio in 54.2 innings of work with the Pawtucket Red Sox in 2014, but his overall numbers are impressive. He is 2-2 with a 2.47 ERA through 10 starts and has allowed only two home runs. If he can continue keeping his sinking fastball low in the zone, then he will be a great commodity at Fenway Park.

2. Brandon Workman: Workman should really be a top option to be brought up, but his eight homers allowed and 5.12 ERA to go along with 40 hits allowed in seven starts should not make him an option at the moment. The 25-year-old is 3-1 thanks to run support, but he has not looked like he has been able to keep the ball in the ballpark so far in 2014.

3. Rubby De La Rosa: Another key player in the deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, De La Rosa has looked solid with a respectable 3.42 ERA in 47.1 innings. The 2-3 record is thanks to mediocre run support since the starter has yet to allow a home run through nine starts.

4. Anthony Ranaudo: The final player in the farm system the Red Sox should take a look at is Ranaudo who has thrown 52.1 innings, which is second to Webster so far with the Paw Sox. The 24-year-old may need more time in Triple-A, but he has proven that he can get the job done with a 4-3 record with a 3.27 ERA. The 28 walks may be a little high, but the 49 strikeouts shows that he has the stuff to get batters to swing and miss.

The Expectations Of The Red Sox Starting Rotation

red sox starting rotation

Last season, the Red Sox starting rotation was one of the biggest reasons the team won the AL East, and eventually the World Series. With the roster changes by the New York Yankees and other teams in the division, the expectations for the Red Sox starting rotation will be at an all-time high. Here is what I expect out of the five starters in 2014.

Jon Lester: If spring training is any indication on how Lester will perform in 2014, then he could have one of the best seasons of his career. In three spring starts, the 30-year-old has allowed one run in 12 2/3 innings. The second half of the 2013 season, Lester was among the best pitchers in baseball, as he finished with a 7-2 record and 2.57 ERA. Lester is the Red Sox’s ace and I expect the nine-year veteran to have an all-star type season.

John Lackey:  Prior to the 2013 season, many considered the John Lackey signing one of the worst in Red Sox history. Last season however, he became one of the Red Sox better pitchers. Lackey finished the 2013 postseason with a 3-1, which was capped off by his game six clinching victory to win the World Series. While I don’t expect him to finish the regular season with a 3.52 ERA again, I do expect Lackey to finish with about 12-14 wins for the Red Sox.

Felix Doubront: Doubront came to spring training in the best shape of his career. He finished the 2013 season with a record of 11-6. Last season, he also had a stretch of 19 games with a 2.99 ERA from May to August. Expect more of the Doubront we saw late in the season and also in the playoffs. With Buchholz moving down to the fifth spot in the rotation, more will be expected from Doubront in 2014.

Jake Peavy: Peavy’s production has never been a question, his health has. Despite the fact he remained healthy after he came over in a trade from the White Sox last season, the 33-year-old has had a number of trips on the DL in years past. In 10 starts after the trade, Peavy compiled a 4-1 record with a 4.04 ERA. If he can stay off the disabled list, I expect more of the same from Peavy.

Clay Buchholz: Some Red Sox fans ask why manager John Farrell would make a former two-time All-Star with a 12-1 record last season the number five starter in the rotation. Buchholz is the team’s fifth starter because he hasn’t shown the ability to stay healthy. In 2013, it was a neck strain that kept him out until September. In June 2011, Buchholz suffered a stress fracture that kept him out for the rest of the season. When he pitches, he is one of the better pitchers in baseball. If the Red Sox can limit Buchholz’s starts at the fifth spot, this could provide a boost at the back of the rotation.

A Pitchers’ Duel in New York

pitchers' duel

Jon Lester bummed after his poor start on Friday night. Courtesy of theawesomeboston.com

There is a pitchers’ duel brewing in the Bronx. Over the course of the last two games, pitching proved itself to be most important to wins and losses for the Yankees and the Red Sox. Friday night, C.C. Sabathia was simply untouchable. Lester, on the other hand, threw pitches, just not over the plate. It was like watching Stevie Wonder play darts.

Saturday night the opposite happened; Felix Doubront versus Phil Hughes. The Sox went to work on Hughes early and often setting the tone in the third inning with a grand slam by Mike Napoli. The hits just kept on coming for the Sox all night.

The Yankee bullpen is as shallow as a rich, blonde girl walking down Newbury Street. A shallow blonde girl may be hot, but I am not going to have her put together a business plan for me. In the case of the Yankees, I don’t want Giradi and his management staff to organize my 5-man rotation, nor develop a strategy on how best to leverage my bullpen. Neither will be successful in their endeavors.

The Yankees are inconsistent due to lack of a strong pitching strategy, and a reliance on the idea that big salaries = wins. The Mets swept the Yanks because Mets pitching strategy worked better.  Yeesh! You have to take a long, hard look at yourself in the mirror if you are losing to the Mets.

One or two pitchers do not a good bullpen make. Admittedly, the Sox’ five-man rotation is a bit shaky right now.  We have a strategy, though. We have depth, grit, a strong farm system waiting in the wings. This is a thinking man’s game, and John Farrell is always thinking of his next move. Is Girardi doing that, because it looks as if he made few decisions in Saturday night’s game because he had nothing upon which to make a decision?  I do not think “should I put the hot dog vendor in or not?” is the type of thinking Yankee fans are looking for.

You cannot throw money at this baseball problem. You also cannot rely solely on the players for wins.

Change in Attitude Will Help Doubront in His Game

FelixDoubront

The Red Sox surrendered four runs in a second inning that would prove the difference against the Yankees.

There is a shift in the Red Sox this season and it’s not only in the game, but it’s also in the players’ attitudes. Felix Doubront, a lefty bar none, has his head in the game this year (unlike last year) and is on the roster as No. 4 starter to pitch. Although he’s not No. 1, and his 2012 stats are eerie, he has proven to be up there with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Ryan Dempster, as spring training draws to an end. April 1 will come and although Doubront will not be on the mound, he still holds a spot because of his new found attitude, his perfectionism, and his drive.

The left handed pitcher took control this past July as he appeared sharp on the mound with a 4.37 ERA (down from 4.86 ERA, in 2011), and was 10-5 throughout the month. However, his inconsistencies lead him on a downward spiral where his opponents hit .351 off his supposed, steamy 93-96 mph pitches. He’s a young player and has more talent than most guys out there.  He still has much to overcome, but the potential is there. Upon reading Wednesday’s Boston Globe, “All the tools, ready to build” by Peter Abraham, I found a young man, (Felix Doubront), who is ready to take control, which means he is ready to adjust his attitude, and keep his head in the game. He admits he has much to work on, but within time, manager, John Farrell, sees another solid No. 1 starter in the team’s future.

“This year is going to be different.  I know that right away. When I’m on the mound I get so pumped. But I’m going to change that.”

Wednesday, March 20, was proof Felix Doubront truly needs to keep his head in the game, and continue to think solely about the pitching. The first inning against the Yankees he was gold. After all, he struck out two of only eight pitchers. It was when his defensive team began to make errors on the field, in the second inning, his mental state got the best of him, and things grew out of control. He even threw one in the dirt, sacrificing a run. This caused the Red Sox a 4-0 loss against their nemesis, our nemesis. Although it was a pretty uneventful game from the second inning on, that inning proved Felix Doubront has a lot of work to do to make it through to the top, and become the next Ryan Dempster. A change in attitude will help, but the problem is, he needs to get out of his comfort zone, step up, and make that change.