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What has happened to Felix Doubront’s fastball?

05.04.13 at 12:39 am ET
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Felix Doubront (AP)

One of the chief topics of conversation following the Red Sox’ 7-0 loss to the Rangers Friday night was regarding Felix Doubront’s fastball velocity, or lack thereof.

The lefty starter — who allowed six runs over just 3 2/3 innings — never threw one heater over 91 mph, this after managing to touch 92 mph just twice in his previous appearance. It was a dramatic change from even earlier in the season, when (according to BaseballAnalytics.org) Doubront hit 92 mph or better 43 times in his first start.

After Friday night’s loss, both Doubront and Red Sox manager John Farrell insisted to reporters that the drop in velocity had nothing to do with any physical issues.

“It’s weird, man,” the pitcher said. “It’s nothing that’s bothering me. It’s so weird. I can’t explain it. I just keep throwing, and we’ll see.”

“It is, particularly when you don’t experience any kind of pain or discomfort,” said Farrell when asked if the drop in velocity is somewhat perplexing. “If there were, he wouldn’t be going out there. Still, we know that his fastball lacks some of the consistent power that we’ve seen in the past.”

The fastballs are noticeably different than what Doubront delivered a year ago. While the starter is throwing the pitch with approximately the same frequency as 2012 (when he threw the heater 63.4 percent of the time, compared to the 60.5 percent rate he has had this season), the heat isn’t the same.

Last season, 1,526 of his 1,818 fastballs were 92 mph or better (maxing out with eight pitches hitting 96 mph). This time around, 65 of Doubront’s 248 heaters have hit 92 mph or better (topping out at 94 mph).

“Little bit of a concern,” Farrell said. “Physically, though, he doesn’t express any restrictions or any tightness, any soreness. When he tries to get his better velocity, that’s when he starts to really lose command, so I know he’ll acknowledge where the ball’s not coming out of his hand as it’s been in the past. We have to go by that there’s no aches or no stiffness or soreness.”

Doubront did experience some forearm tightness in spring training after arriving in camp somewhat out of shape. (He has dealt with elbow issues in the past.) Still, Farrell pointed out that the dip in velocity has only been a recent phenomenon.

“Well, even in spring training we saw the 92s and 93s, and yet, by virtue of that, you’d think that while he was a little bit slow getting started, to have it show up now,” the manager said. “It’s still a little bit inconsistent.”

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