PAWTUCKET â€” Even though he has one more rehab start lined up, Felix Doubront didnâ€™t beat around the bush when asked about the significance of Tuesdayâ€™s mound assignment for the PawSox.
To the burly lefthander who has been on Bostonâ€™s disabled list since May 21 with a left shoulder strain, the goal at this point is to simply build on the groundwork thatâ€™s already been laid. The 26-year-old admitted Monday afternoon inside the home clubhouse at McCoy Stadium that the reasons for encouragement have been omnipresent, first with the four innings he went for Double-A Portland last Thursday to the bullpen session he tossed Sunday in Detroit.
â€śIâ€™m looking for healthiness and how my shoulder responds. I feel good right now, but I have to step it up by throwing strikes without feeling weird,â€ť Doubront explained. â€śMy goal (Tuesday against Louisville) is to throw at a good pace and have good control.
â€śItâ€™s good to get back on the mound, throw strikes and get people out,â€ť he continued. â€śThe bullpen â€¦ I didnâ€™t throw the same way like I did in Portland. I was able to control my arm better and my off-pitch was good. Mechanically, the motion of my arm is much shorter.â€ť
The Red Sox are hopeful that the lull in Doubrontâ€™s season will pay dividends in the form of a pitcher who is able to go deep into games. He only pitched into the seventh inning in three of his nine starts prior getting shut down by Boston.
It was not like Doubront was off to a blazing start with the Red Sox, going 2-4 with a 5.12 ERA while allowing more hits (52) than innings pitched (45.2).
Tentatively, Doubront is scheduled to go five innings Tuesday. He is in line to make another start for the PawSox next Sunday, two days after fellow Boston rotation mate and rehabber Clay Buchholz drops by McCoy to face Charlotte.
â€śEverything is day to day, start to start,â€ť said Doubront, who on Monday threw on flat ground. â€śThe goal is to once again pitch in the majors.â€ť
Monday marked the 100th game of Bostonâ€™s season. The defending World Series champs began the night six games under .500 and nine games behind first-place Toronto. Given the rash of injuries the Red Sox have dealt with, it seems premature to draw rash conclusions.
Doubront echoed said belief by stating, â€śThere are things that are going to come up over the course of a season. The guys, theyâ€™re going out there and giving 100 percent. If you look at it from the outside, weâ€™re playing good baseball. A lot of things have happened that you can do nothing about â€¦ errors, umpires, bad luck. We won that game on Sunday because of David (Ortiz) and hopefully we can keep it going so we put the team in the right position to play in October.â€ť
The pairing of Mookie Betts in the leadoff spot and Shannon Wilkerson in the ninth spot in the lineup provides the PawSox with an ability that hasnâ€™t been seen around these parts in several years: the ability to steal a base.
Betts swept 22 bases in Portland with Wilkerson successfully stealing seven bags at the Double-A level. Since joining the PawSox, the pair has combined for one theft and one caught stealing.
â€śWe have guys who can take an extra base and are a threat as far as stolen-base attempts,â€ť noted Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles. â€śEven on routine groundballs, these guys get down the line. Weâ€™re definitely more athletic.â€ť
EXTRA BASES: With Doubront on tap to start Tuesday and Sunday and Buchholz likewise on Friday, Pawtucketâ€™s rotation appears to be somewhat in flux. With an off day scheduled on Wednesday, Steven Wright will now go Thursday in the first game of a four-game set against the Knights. â€¦ To get Alex Hassan back on the roster, the PawSox placed infielder Ryan Roberts on the temporary inactive list, the move dating back to last Saturday. Fresh off his first big-league stint, Hassan was not in the starting lineup Monday. â€¦ Outfielder Bryce Brentz continues to be hindered by hamstring tightness. Heâ€™s been on the disabled list since May 20. â€śHeâ€™s gotten his running in. I think heâ€™s close, but weâ€™ve got to err on the side of caution,â€ť said Boles â€¦ Mondayâ€™s game featured a four-man umpiring crew.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03