ANAHEIM — The Red Sox didn’t give up on Felix Doubront in early May. But they certainly shoved him to the side.
Doubront was taken out of the rotation after his first six starts produced a 6.40 earned run average. Then came a terrible relief outing against Minnesota that saw Doubront allow six runs on 11 hits over 5.1 innings in a game the Sox lost, 15-8.
Doubront went back on the bench for a week. The only thing keeping the 25-year-old lefthander on the roster at that point were the memories of his success last season.
Pitching coach Juan Nieves went to work on Doubront, changing his routine to include more long toss to improve his arm strength and an extra bullpen session designed to refine his command.
The results since have been impressive. Doubront has a 2.87 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP in 10 starts since returning to the rotation while averaging 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings.
In Friday night’s 6-2 victory against the Angels, Doubront allowed two runs on five hits over 6.2 innings. He kept the Sox in the game long enough to get the win as they scored four runs in the final three innings.
“He was outstanding tonight,” manager John Farrell said. “Once again he works deep in the ballgame. … He had good stuff. He was on the plate with his fastball much more consistently tonight. Very good changeup. Really put us in a position to get into that seventh inning and we got some timely hits late.”
Doubront hasn’t regained the velocity he had last season. But there is enough in his fastball to get the ball by hitters when he has to.
“His assortment of pitches, he has weapons to keep guys off stride. He’s kind of flown under the radar given the years by other guys,” Farrell said. “But he’s logging quality innings for us.”
Since Clay Buchholz last pitched on June 8, Doubront, Ryan Dempster and John Lackey have made 15 starts and have a 2.81 ERA.
“Pretty consistently they’re going out there for at least six [innings]. Any time they’re walking out there for the seventh or beyond, you’re in bonus territory,” Farrell said.
Doubront feels the difference has been good health.
“That’s the best part. My arm feels good now. Working with Juan and the bullpens, just pitching,” he said.
When the Red Sox temporarily demoted Doubront, it was a kick in the pants.
“That was a situation, I have to do it for the team,” he said. “I’ve tried to keep that pace and help the team win.”