Felix Doubront started Sunday for the first time since Sept. 6, his first game action since a significant break after a pair of rocky outings in which he allowed a total of 10 runs, lasting just 3⅔ innings each time.
When the lefthander took the mound against the Blue Jays, it appeared the rest paid off. He retired the Jays in order in the first inning on 14 pitches — all four-seam and two-seam fastballs, his fastest reaching 94 miles per hour.
After allowing a home run to Kevin Pillar in the fifth inning, Doubront retired the next nine Blue Jays to cap a strong outing. He pitched seven innings and scattered four hits, allowing just two runs to earn the win in a 5-2 victory against Toronto in the Red Sox’ final home regular-season game of the season.
“I was feeling good, the arm feels good,” Doubront said. “Lots of rest. I was feeling good on my pitches. I was really, too strong, sometimes I wanted to throw the changeup hard. One changeup, I tried to take it off a little bit and I hung it, that was the homer.
“I was impressed. Sometimes when you get that kind of rest and long days, you try to do too much. I was trying to just throw strikes and that helped.”
Doubront finished the day with 97 pitches and relied heavily on his four-seam fastball, going to it 59 times.
He remained strong throughout his outing, and in the seventh inning, his final pitch was a 93 mile-per-hour fastball to Pillar, who grounded out to end the inning. Doubront needed just eight pitches to get through the inning.
Pitching coach Juan Nieves described Doubront’s velocity as “unbelievable.”
“The rest was really good for him, very beneficial,” Nieves said. “I can’t wait to see him pitch again.”
The next time Doubront pitches likely will be in Baltimore as a reliever. After his start on Sept. 6, in which he allowed six runs against the Yankees, manager John Farrell moved Doubront to the bullpen.
John Lackey and Jake Peavy will pitch Tuesday and Wednesday in Colorado, and Farrell confirmed that Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, and Lackey are penciled in to finish the season against the Orioles.
“He’s always been a guy with great aptitude,” Farrell said of Doubront. “He’s got a willingness to learn. The only thing that limits him currently is the stamina and endurance to get through a full season. He’s an extremely talented young guy.”
With the exception of the previous two outings, Doubront (11-6, 4.08 ERA) has been particularly strong for the Red Sox, especially during the absence of Buchholz.
Buchholz was out from June 8 until Sept. 10, and during that time, Doubront proved to be a reliable starter.
In 15 starts, he went 6-3 with a 3.90 ERA, and 72 strikeouts in 92⅔ innings.
From July 5 to Aug. 4, Doubront won four of his six starts.
“There was that 15-start stretch where he was as consistent as anyone in our rotation,” Farrell said. “He’s a talented lefthander. He’s got a full complement of pitches and some swing-and-miss in his fastball.
“We’ve talked a number of times this year where guys stepped up. In that time, he was as good as anyone in our rotation at the time.”
While it may have been the last start he gets this season, the 25-year-old Doubront was reluctant to reflect on the progress he’s made this season.
Instead, he centered his focus on the remaining games in September and October.
“I’m just trying to be consistent,” Doubront said. “That was the big part of this year. There are ups and downs, and right now I’m not thinking about that. Just keep going, we got more games to play and hopefully we’re going to be there, helping the team to win.”