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Sox bull(pen)ish on Doubront?

08.31.10 at 7:53 pm ET

BALTIMORE — Part of the reason that Manny Delcarmen became expendable was that he had been bypassed by a teammate.

Delcarmen’s struggles forced the Sox to see if they could find viable alternatives to him. The role that he once occupied, helping to pass the baton to Jonathan Papelbon in games when the Sox had a middle-innings lead, was put up for grabs while Delcarmen was relegated to pitching in games in which his team trailed.

In dealing Delcarmen, Sox GM Theo Epstein explained that he’d been bypassed by other relievers, including Felix Doubront. In eight games as a reliever, the 22-year-old has a 3.12 ERA and a whopping 12 strikeouts in just 8 2/3 innings. He has walked only two batters in that time.

The Sox, Epstein said, still view Doubront as a starter for the long-term. But for the rest of this year, and perhaps even for next year, the team may have the left-hander work out of the bullpen.

As of now, the Sox have six starters under their contractual control for the 2011 season: Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield. While trades or injuries could alter the outlook, Epstein suggested that Doubront could follow a time-honored tradition of having future starters cut their teeth in relief.

“We like Doubront a lot. He’€™s had a really consistent development path through the minors as a starter, and we see him long term as a starter, but like a lot of starting pitchers, the first stage of his big league career might be as a reliever, especially in this organization,” said Epstein. “We have a full slate of starters coming back. We have some kids we like in the minor leagues, Doubront included. We think he’€™s a major leaguer at this point. As long as he continues his development, there’€™s a chance he’€™s here to stay. If the only opportunity exists in the bullpen, he’€™s certainly proven that he has a chance to be an effective one.”

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