FORT MYERS, Fla. — The moment of truth might finally be here for Felix Doubront.
The highly touted lefty, thought to be ready to contribute in the spring of 2011, may be getting one final chance to show what he has in Red Sox camp this spring. But the question hanging over the 26-year-old Venezuelan is: can he stay healthy?
In a three-season career with the Red Sox, Doubront has a 17–19 record with a 4.57 ERA and a 3.17 strikeout-to-walk ratio (228-to-72) in 271 2/3 innings.
Two seasons ago, Doubront’s growth was stunted when he reported to camp out of shape. He subsequently came up with forearm tightness in his throwing arm.
A knee injury slowed him in 2012. Still, Doubront entered last season as a starter and started strong, beating out Aaron Cook and Alfredo Aceves in spring training. With Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester getting off to relatively slow starts, and Daniel Bard being demoted to the minors Doubront got off to a good start, going 5-2 in his first 10 starts.
There have been glimpses of greatness. Last June, Doubront took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the Miami Marlins. He finished the game giving up two runs on three hits and earned a win. He ended the season with a positive first year having a full time starting job, with a record of 11-10.
Now, Doubront is being held back because of shoulder fatigue.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington stopped short of calling out the pitcher for reporting to camp out of shape Saturday, lumping him in with the rehabbing Craig Breslow and Buchholz. All three took part in pitchers’ fielding drills Saturday.
“I think we’re kind of taking advantage of a longer spring training to go slow, and I guess you could say the same with Buchholz and Breslow,” Cherington said. “Guys that are moving a little bit slower out of the gate. I think if the opening day clock was coming on us quicker, you’d probably see them further advanced in their schedules by now. All three of those guys are feeling good and on a schedule now. Felix should be off the mound some time this coming week. So he’s got plenty of time.”
Doubront is expected to get back on a mound Wednesday and begin pitching again. As for his conditioning, Cherington said the team is convinced Doubront doesn’t need extra reminders about conditioning.
“Well it’s important for a starting pitcher to do what they have to do to give themselves a chance to take the ball 30 times,” Cherington said. “And Felix knows that. It’s something we’ve talked to him over time about, not just this spring but over the years about. And he understands that. When he’s with us and we’re asking him to do stuff he always does it, does it with high intensity. So he’s got plenty of time now, between now and early April to do what he needs to do to put himself in a position to be one of our starters and be a guy we can rely on every fifth day.”