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Doubront’s outing is a big relief

Bullpen gets needed rest thanks to his solid effort

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / May 8, 2012
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. - After absorbing a 9-6 loss in 17 innings against the Orioles Sunday at Fenway Park, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine was asked before Monday night’s game against the Royals if he was prepared to go another 17 innings.

“Only if Felix can go 15 of them,’’ Valentine said, wearily.

It was clear that it was Felix Doubront’s mandate to pitch deep into the opener of a three-game set against Kansas City to give Boston’s bullpen a chance to recharge its batteries after combining for 25 2/3 innings over its previous three games.

“Felix was excellent,’’ Valentine said after Doubront helped save the bullpen by going a 6 1/3 innings and throwing 111 pitches, both career highs, to earn his second win of the season in an 11-5 victory over the Royals.

“You think about the first four hits they got - broken bat, fly ball to center - he was efficient,’’ Valentine said. “It was one of the first games all year the guy had 45 [pitches] after three [innings], 75 after five, and 90 after six. That’s what we needed.’’

After the Sox used up their bullpen Sunday, Doubront knew what he had to do. He needed to make sure he lasted more than four innings, which was how long he worked in his previous outing in absorbing his first loss of the season in a 5-3 setback against the A’s last Tuesday at Fenway Park.

“That was one of my goals,’’ said Doubront, who improved to 2-1 with a 5.29 ERA after allowing five runs (four earned) on seven hits and three walks while striking out two. “I tried to get the most innings that I could and battle to the end.’’

Even though the Sox handed him a 4-0 lead in the first inning, Doubront issued a two-out walk to Billy Butler in the bottom half and came off the mound in obvious frustration at plate umpire Tim Tschida.

Valentine came out of the dugout to let Doubront know he was not going to stand for any histrionics or any staredowns of the plate ump from his starting pitcher.

“I just told him we’re not going to do that. You’re too good to do that,’’ Valentine said. “After that, the umpire was no longer part of the game. It was just him and the hitter and the catcher, and that’s the way we’re supposed to play.’’

Said Doubront, “He just told me to forget about it and to just pitch and do your job - and to relax. I focused more and just forgot about those calls and just pitched.’’

It was precisely what the Sox needed from their 24-year-old lefty.

“He put us back on track,’’ Valentine lauded. “He and [Vicente] Padilla allowed this pitching staff to get back on track. Tomorrow, I think we’re going to be back at full steam.’’

Doubront remained in the game after getting hit on the hip by a comebacker to the mound by Brayan Pena in the fourth. He didn’t falter until the seventh, when he loaded the bases on three singles and walked in a run that enabled the Royals to pull within 7-5.

That’s when he turned it over to Padilla, who got Butler to ground into a 4-6-3 double play.

“He saved me,’’ Doubront said.

With Daisuke Matsuzaka making a strong rehab start in Pawtucket Monday night, going 4 2/3 innings and allowing two hits while walking three and striking out four on 87 pitches (49 strikes), it was the kind of gutsy outing Doubront needed to earn an extended look in the starting rotation.

“I think every outing I learn more,’’ said Doubront, who earned the No. 4 spot out of spring training. “It was a good experience. I’m going to have more and more situations like this in the future and I learned how to handle them.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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