Doubront struck out five in six innings on Sat.
Felix Doubront has struggled at times in the early going of the 2012 season, but on Saturday night vs. the Cleveland Indians, the young left-hander put forth a much-needed dominant start for the Red Sox. He went six strong innings, allowing one earned run on three hits, two walks and five strikeouts, in a 4-1 victory. [FREE PREVIEW OF PREMIUM CONTENT]
Doubront started out of the gate strong, striking out the first two hitters in the Indians lineup. That beginning was a precursor to an outstanding evening for the young 24-year old pitcher who believes his advanced preparation was key to such a successful outing.
"I got the plan a couple of days ago," Doubront said. "It was what I expected. It worked for me. I was keeping the ball down. They have many lefties. I was throwing in. My breaking balls were working."
The Venezuelan has now gotten into a little bit of groove, completing at least six innings in four of his last five starts, something that has the hurler’s confidence rising.
"I'm going to get better every day, every start," the youngster said confidently. "I'm just waiting for that moment to go more deep in the game. But I feel fine, throwing six innings, more than six innings. That's my game plan. If I throw six innings and I've got less pitches, let's throw the seventh, that's my mindset."
Doubront’s outing impressed his manager, Bobby Valentine, who sees his young pitcher evolving and becoming a steady option in the rotation. For a team that is struggling out of the blocks, it was a nice sight for the Sox first-year skipper.
“Felix was terrific, he was ahead in the count most of the night, and his fastball was alive. His breaking ball was very good. He did what he had to do to put us in a winning position,” Valentine said.
Valentine was asked about Doubront’s developing improvement in understanding the strike zone, something that can take time for young hurlers, but Doubront is starting to turn that corner.
“Right from the first batter of the game. Word’s getting around a little. There are so many at-bats when he has two strikes on hitter really quickly. He’s not afraid, he has good stuff,” the manager stated.
A key to any starting pitcher’s success is providing consistent innings for his team, something that can be aided by finishing off hitters quickly. Doubront is improving in that category.
“He’s learning how to go deeper, he got some strikeouts and contact in the 1-2 counts [Saturday night], Valentine added. "The more he pitches the more aggressive he is going to be."
His battery-mate on the night was Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who likes the overall package the left-handed Doubront brings to the club.
“Felix was awesome, he went after them, he pitched great,” Saltalamacchia said. “He’s been getting better command with the fastball. He just needs to stay right there.”
While the lefty contains an electric arsenal of pitches, it is his mental approach that impresses Saltalamacchia.
“You can't teach his demeanor, he just goes out there and doesn't get amped up," he added. "He just goes after you, and that's something you can't teach and he's awesome at it.”
The outstanding outing impressed many in the Sox organization, including new teammate and outfielder, Cody Ross.
“It’s great to see Felix come out and dominate,’’ said Doubront’s teammate. “He was pounding the zone in and out with his fastball. Great command, his slider and curveball were great."
Doubront is now 3-1 on the season and has his ERA down to 4.46 in 38.1 innings so far this year. His strikeouts per nine are 8.69, which is good for 25th in the major leagues for qualified starting pitchers. Although his WHIP (1.43) and walk rate (4.3) are higher than he’d like, Doubront is focused on continuing to get better.
"I'm going to learn from every start," he said. "I'm learning. I'm getting better. I just need to throw more and that's it."
The youngster will get his chance to continue his improvement against division rival, the Tampa Rays.