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Doubront emerging as a consistent force in rotation

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / May 29, 2012
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During spring training, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine wasn’t sure what the season held in store for Felix Doubront. The hard-throwing, 24-year-old lefthander was one of three pitchers vying for two spots in the rotation.

When the team committed to Daniel Bard as the No. 5 starter, it became a two-man derby between Doubront and Alfredo Aceves.

Doubront had a better spring and earned the No. 4 spot.

Still, it seemed Doubront’s spot in the rotation was hardly solid.

He was widely regarded as a serviceable pitcher whose primary job was to hold down the spot until Daisuke Matsuzaka returned.

Doubront has altered that perception, improving to 5-2 and lowering his earned run average to 3.86 after Monday’s 7-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers before a festive Fenway Park crowd of 37,921.

“I think he’s been one of our most consistent pitchers this year, from start to start,’’ Valentine said.

The Venezuelan allowed a pair of runs on four hits, including two solo home runs, and one walk, striking out six over six innings.

Doubront has emerged as a stalwart of the rotation, with the most victories and the best ERA on the staff.

He has had six quality starts through 10 outings, second on the team behind Josh Beckett’s seven, while striking out 59 in 56 innings for an average of 9.48 per nine innings. He has allowed two or fewer runs in each of his last four starts.

And Monday he handcuffed the Tigers’ formidable tandem of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, who combined to go 0 for 6 with a pair of strikeouts against Doubront.

“I don’t know if I was surprised, because I thought out of spring training we were going to have an offensive team that would give him a chance to win some games,’’ Valentine said. “But I didn’t expect this kind of consistency.

“And every time he comes out of the game he thinks he can pitch more.’’

That was the case again when Valentine summoned Scott Atchison from the bullpen to start the seventh.

Asked if he was prepared to go deeper, Doubront replied, “Yeah, those six innings, I had no pressure and I wanted to keep going. It was a good lead for us and our bullpen is throwing the ball well, so it was a pretty good decision.’’

Despite serving up homers to Delmon Young (in the second) and Gerald Laird (in the fifth), Doubront seemed to overcome those “mistake pitches’’ and minimize the damage.

“Those didn’t affect me at all,’’ said Doubront, who became the first Sox pitcher since Jon Lester in 2006 to hold opponents to five runs or fewer through his first 13 major league starts. “I knew I threw the pitch bad, but the big thing is realizing what you do, forget what happened, and keep throwing.’’

Said Valentine, “He came right back. A lot of times he’ll miss with some pitches and he seems to have the reset button well within his reach. I think everyone could learn from that.’’

Doubront was asked if his fifth win ranked as his best.

“Pretty much,’’ he said. “In the past, I had thrown a couple of good games, but today I was feeling really good. Every outing I’m learning more how to approach the hitters and today, I think, I was more focused and threw the ball for strikes and got the hitters out quickly, thus the result.’’

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

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