May 29, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox catcher David Ross (3) talks with starting pitcher J. Peavy (44) during the fourth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Felix Doubront move suggests changes ahead for Red Sox pitching staff

The move of Felix Doubront to the bullpen to accommodate Clay Buchholz’s return from the disabled list tonight might be a harbinger of major changes to the Boston Red Sox pitching staff. Whether in the form of a demotion, trade, or release, there is little doubt the performance (or lack thereof) of the team’s starting pitchers has forced John Farrell and Ben Cherington’s hand should they desire to salvage the 2014 season.

Aside from a 16-start stretch last season where he miraculously (check the game log) held opponents to three runs or less in each of those starts, Doubront has exhibited little of the poise required of a Major League rotation piece. The lefty was successful as a reliever in the 2013 postseason, allowing just three hits and a run in seven innings and some pretty high-leverage situations. Though Farrell insists this is only a temporary shuffle, there isn’t much data to suggest Doubront deserves a starting role going forward.

The rest of the starting rotation is clearly a crowded house; the only tried and true occupants Jon Lester and John Lackey.

Doubront and Buchholz have both been miserable this season, the latter posting a 2-4 record and ghastly 7.02 ERA and 1.98 WHIP in 10 turns. They’ve hit speed bumps with their health, though it’s difficult to tell if their DL stints were the result of legitimate malady or pathetic performance. Buchholz has alluded to mechanical issues that affected his concentration; if he can regain his focus and be anywhere close to last year’s model, the Sox will have a solid #3 starter. But that’s asking a lot.

Last night’s losing pitcher Jake Peavy,has made every start this season, but following an effectively wild first month of the campaign (2.87 ERA through six turns), has exhibited none of the form that made him an All-Star in 2012 and attractive trade target for the Red Sox last year. Rick McNair suggests retirement is looming for the veteran righty, but unless Cherington is able to move his hefty salary or Peavy is somehow able to right the ship, the Sox are stuck with another disappointment on the staff.

Meanwhile, young guns Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa have impressed at the big league level and deserve a shot to save this crumbling season. But their pathways are blocked. Further, the Red Sox have only won four of their 10 combined starts because they can’t hit. I’ll save that can of worms for later.

Doubront’s move clears one rotation spot, at least temporarily. His arrival in the ‘pen, however, creates a glut of lefties and Chris Capuano may see his employment status soon change. Capuano fell on his sword Monday night in Seattle and has had a bumpy ride in June, but he finished May with a stretch of seven appearances in which he allowed just one run.

Boston’s pitching problem is compounded by the lack of “sure things” and a strong presence of “maybes.” Maybe Buchholz will get it together. Maybe Peavy’s not finished. Maybe the young guys can contribute over the next three months. Farrell and Cherington are left with no choice other than to play Kreskin with the pitching staff, roll the dice, and see what develops. The Stephen Drew signing was clearly not the spark the team needed. With the Sox in a holding pattern of mediocrity, there’s little time to waste.

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Tags: Boston Red Sox Clay Buchholz Felix Doubront Jake Peavy

  • John Finn Jr

    The Sox picked up Peavy to help their run in late last season, but who would want him now ? Doubront would get some takers as he is a lefty AND he was pretty incredible for the first half of 2013, but I feel that his spot in the present and future is to do what Capuano was hired to do. Something better happen, though, as more pitching prospects will be up next year. Some people have already predicted that Owens will be in the starting rotation next year.. Of course, they could trade Lackey before the season ends, as he will be a 10/5 player when it ends and can demand a trade if we do not increase his pay for 2015.

    • Sean Sylver

      I just wouldn’t ever put “Doubront” and “incredible” in the same sentence. He’s like Five Inning Frank Castillo (RIP) 2.0. Hopefully another GM thinks there’s something there, because you’re right, you’re not going to get much of anything for Peavy and dealing Lackey is just blowing up the thing.

      Then again, maybe it’s high time.

      • John Finn Jr

        Well, last year, I believe he had 14 wins by the all star break and a very low ERA. He was the best on the staff up to that point. Pretty incredible. People were even saying that if we made the World Series that he should be one of the starters.