At the outset of the spring, following a disappointing 2011 campaign, it looked like Felix Doubront was one of the less likely pitchers to win a rotation spot. As a left-hander who could be used in the bullpen, he would need to feature command, his full arsenal of pitches, and convince the team that he could be efficient as a starter to end up in that role. It's not that he wasn't capable, but after showing up out of shape the year prior, and with his history of minor injuries getting in the way of progress, it's easy to see why people thought one of the half-dozen other candidates had more of a legitimate shot.
After nearly 17 official spring innings in the Grapefruit League, as well as frames in B-games and minor-league contests, Doubront looks like he might have just won one of the two open rotation spots. He's inducing groundballs, and while the strikeouts and walks haven't quite lined up where you'd want them yet, he's shown flashes of quality pitching. The how matters a bit more to the Red Sox in the small samples of spring than pure results -- how did Doubront do when behind in the count, was he able to utilize all of his pitches, are the mechanical changes working for him -- and it seems as if he's got that area under control.
Doubront hasn't dominated the upper minors yet, but he has pitched well. In 169 innings and 35 starts at Double-A Portland, the lefty held homers in check while striking out over twice as many batters as he walked. At Triple-A Pawtucket, he's had less experience -- and less successful outings -- but has still managed a respectable 3.86 ERA over 107 frames, with a 2.3 K/BB.
But he's out of options, and has worked as a starter for most of his career, so it's time that the Red Sox and Doubront see what he's capable of. If he can keep his command consistent and utilize his whole repertoire in order to get outs, then he should be able to produce average-or-better pitching from the back of Boston's rotation. At this stage of the 24-year-old's career, it's not a given things work out like that -- it's not even a given that he wins one of the two open spots. But he's earned the chance to show us either way.