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Rookie worthy of return trip

Doubront solid in winning debut

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / June 19, 2010

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Sometime soon, probably today, Felix Doubront will be returned to the minors and continue in his development as a pitcher. But the Red Sox rookie lefthander from Venezuela made it clear last night that he will be back.

On a night when Fenway Park was alive in anticipation of Manny Ramirez’s return with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Doubront maintained a level of poise unusual for a 22-year-old making his major league debut.

Doubront pitched into the sixth inning and was the winner in a 10-6 victory. He left the mound to an ovation from the crowd of 37,723.

“Awesome,’’ Doubront said. “That was amazing.’’

Those applauding included Doubront’s wife, two children, his brother, and other relatives.

“My mom couldn’t get a flight from Venezuela,’’ said Doubront, who learned Wednesday that he would get the start. “But I know she’s watching on television.’’

Doubront allowed five runs, three earned, on six hits and two walks. He struck out two. Doubront was the youngest lefthander to win his debut for the Red Sox since 21-year-old Billy Rohr beat the Yankees in 1967.

“The significance of his first major league start didn’t throw him,’’ said manager Terry Francona. “I don’t think this stage or this ballpark threw him off.’’

Doubront impressed the Sox in spring training and was quickly promoted from Double A Portland to Pawtucket. In all, he was 6-1 with a 2.11 ERA in 12 starts in the minors.

That success continued for two innings last night as he retired the first six Dodgers in order, including Ramirez, who led off the second inning with a line drive to center.

“I got a little nervous. But it was gone when I threw the first pitch. During the game, it was good,’’ Doubront said.

Doubront threw his fastball for strikes and had command of his changeup. But his breaking ball was erratic and the Dodgers figured that out by the third inning.

Ronnie Belliard started with a double to deep center. When Jamey Carroll bunted, Kevin Youkilis made an accurate throw to first, but Doubront did not look the ball into his glove. A run scored as the ball rolled away.

“That cost him,’’ Francona said.

Matt Kemp followed with a triple to center, hammering a curveball that was up in the zone. He scored when Russell Martin grounded out.

But in the fifth inning, with the score tied, 3-3, Doubront struck out the dangerous Andre Ethier on five pitches, the final one a 93-mile-per-hour fastball.

“I was thinking I had to get this guy out. I just threw the ball,’’ he said.

The Red Sox scored seven runs in the fifth inning, sending 12 batters to the plate. According to Doubront, the long inning took a toll on him.

“It had a little bit of an effect on my mechanics and my body,’’ said Doubront, who had not pitched since June 7 as the Red Sox had him skip two starts in Pawtucket.

Ramirez started the sixth with a single and took second when Casey Blake doubled to deep center. James Loney followed with a two-run single before Belliard walked.

Francona came out of the dugout, ending Doubront’s night after 83 pitches. The infielders gathered at the mound to pat him on the back.

Jason Varitek, who had never before caught Doubront, was impressed.

“He threw strikes and that’s a tell-tale sign. He came back when they tied the game and, boom, immediately threw strikes again,’’ Varitek said. “He definitely has a very powerful arm he can attack the zone with.’’

With Daisuke Matsuzaka ready to come off the disabled list and start Thursday in Colorado, the Sox are likely to option Doubront back to Pawtucket today.

But he will leave with a better sense of what he needs to do to return.

“This was a great experience,’’ he said. “I want to do it again.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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