Sunday, August 21, 2011

Doubront’s tough luck year bottoms out in PawSox loss

In the world’s old patriarchal tongue from ancient Rome, the adjective “sinister”―known in modern English to be strictly associated with evil and inauspicious circumstances―was actually a synonym for both “left” and “left-handed.”

Somewhere, at least one former citizen of Julius Caesar’s empire must have been watching Felix Doubront’s second inning at McCoy Stadium Sunday afternoon and uttering the Latin phrase for “case and point.”

Each of the southpaw Doubront’s first four challengers in the second stanza nailed a hit into the left-field vicinity, sculpting a rapid-fire 4-0 lead for the Syracuse Chiefs. A subsequent walk and double nudged Doubront over the precipice prematurely at 44 pitches, 31 shy of manager Arnie Beyeler’s goal for the luckless lefty.

Syracuse ultimately won, 7-4, dropping Doubront to a 1-5 transcript with the PawSox this season. Doubront, who started the year in the Major Leagues before being optioned on April 18, has claimed each of his six Triple-A decisions within his last 10 out of16 total starts. Those starts have been interspersed with two stints on the disabled list.

Since returning from his latest ailment, a hamstring injury suffered in a July 19 bout with Lehigh Valley, Doubront has failed to pitch any more than an even three innings. He lasted a mere 2.2 at Charlotte on August 11, although that was by design as he was re-acclimating.

To commence the current homestand, Doubront returned to the McCoy mound last Tuesday, but was forked out after allowing five runs on four hits within the first three innings en route to a 5-2 loss to Columbus.

Sunday’s start, nearly six full weeks to the date of his second and most recent winning decision in 2011 with Double-A Portland, had an initially promising vibe to it. Doubront struck out the first two men in the Chiefs batting order, using the minimum limit of six pitches on those plays. A grounder by Chris Marrero curtained a 1-2-3 first inning.

But things instantaneously imploded in the second. Back-to-back doubles by Jesus Valdez and Tug Hulett, both dropped along the left-field line, amounted to a 1-0 lead for Syracuse.

After Seth Bynum lined a single to left-center to put himself and Hulett on the corners, Jeff Frazier homered to left on a payoff pitch to tack on another three runs with still nobody out in the second. At that point, Doubront had already thrown an aggregate 21 pitches to four homeward bound batters in the inning.

Doubront let two more men on as he walked Carlos Maldonado and authorized his fourth extra-base hit in the form of a double by Corey Brown. Successor Royce Ring would let both of those men score, maxing out Doubront’s tab of six earned-runs on five hits.

Doubront, who sat out the latter half of May with a groin strain, is off to a false start in his second comeback from a long-term injury, especially considering his June and July log.

It took two full months and seven starts for Doubront to record a five-plus-inning start and, in turn, a decision. Although he lost in Norfolk on that June 9 evening and eventually went on an 0-3 hex in five starts, he was at least getting reasonably deep into the game.

Ironically, these same Chiefs offered Boston’s defending Minor League Pitcher of the Year his long-awaited first 2011 season victory on July 6 as Doubront turned in his longest, most efficient start to date. Through a full seven shutout innings with only four base hits and six total runners on his tab, he set the table for a 2-0 triumph in Syracuse.

Over the subsequent All-Star Break, Doubront suddenly commenced a personal winning streak, squeezing out a 9-5 victory in a one-night stop with the Sea Dogs July 11, going for five innings with only one earned-run on four hits and nine strikeouts.

Since then, though, Doubront has gone no longer than 4.1 innings per game. At that stage in a July 19 bout with the IronPigs, he found himself tumbling back down to the disabled list yet again as he aggravated a hamstring whilst fielding a soft grounder.

A good 33 days and four starts later (including one rehab outing with Single-A Lowell), Doubront has not come close to a repeat of his early July gem at Syracuse. In fact, on Sunday, the Chiefs seemed to achieve retribution by blowing his psyche about as far back as possible.