It's been over three months since Felix Doubront last pitched in a major league game, and it's getting harder and harder to understand why.
Thanks to a strong 2010 which saw him advance from Double-A all the way to his Major League debut, Felix Doubront had seemingly earned a place on the 25-man roster as a bullpen arm and occasional spot-starter in the vein of Justin Masterson.
That opportunity lasted for all of three games. Doubront proved ineffective in his first three innings, and was quickly returned to the minor leagues. Since then, the Sox have run through a total of nine different starting pitchers--soon to be ten with Erik Bedard--of which only two are now sure things: Josh Beckett and Jon Lester.
Daisuke Matsuzaka and (seemingly) Clay Buchholz are done for the year. Alfredo Aceves hasn't really proved up to the task, and is much more valuable as a long man in the bullpen. Tim Wakefield's ERA sits over five, and even an outing with eight strikeouts and one walk could only make Andrew Miller's K and BB/9 rates even. Kyle Weiland clearly isn't ready, and while John Lackey has been alright of late, it's hard to imagine depending on him after the way his season started.
So with that in mind, I send out a plea to the Red Sox: give Felix Doubront a chance.
It's not, after all, like Doubront has been bad in the minors. In fact, if you can look past a minor injury or two (he's currently on the disabled list with a minor hamstring strain, though indications at the time were that he would be back soon) Doubront has been just as good in 2011 as he was in 2010, posting a slightly higher ERA, but also a slightly higher K/BB. There's not much of a difference between the Felix Doubront who earned starts last year and the one who has been banished to Pawtucket this year.
Realistically, after missing a couple of weeks, Doubront wouldn't be ready to start for another week or two anyways, so it shouldn't be hard to clear up a rotation spot for him by then. Beckett, Lester, Lackey, and Bedard are really the only four pitchers who have to be getting starts right now as the four guys who could well start in the playoffs That leaves Andrew Miller and Tim Wakefield for the fifth spot. Wakefield can take the time (potentially in a six-man configuration) to earn win no. 200, and Miller can get three more shots to prove himself--though personally I don't see that happening.
Then, once Felix has the rust shaken off, bring him up with about 35-40 games to go and get him between six and eight starts.
The rotation's current situation is too precarious for the Red Sox to simply leave it be. Neither Miller nor Wakefield provides adequate protection against one of the top-4 members falling to injury (or even just failing to perform) heading into the playoffs. There's no certainty that Doubront will provide that protection, either, but he seems like the guy with the best chance to be at least that. And should everyone stay healthy headed into October, then Doubront can likely provide at least a more reliable left-handed reliever than the walk-prone Morales or Randy Williams.
So let's see what Doubront has to offer, even if we hope to never use him.