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Mike Carp, Felix Doubront and the challenges of player discontent on a struggling team

07.27.14 at 1:02 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — At a time when the Red Sox are sinking in the standings, with contention ever more difficult, some player concerns have shifted from the state of the team to their own place on the roster. It’s not an uncommon occurrence when an environment shifts from one in which winning was routine to one in which struggle becomes the norm. Nonetheless, that doesn’t diminish the challenge of navigating through player discontent.

On Saturday, Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Mike Carp made known his desire for a trade, saying that he’d asked the Red Sox to trade him to another team that might be able to give him a greater playing opportunity.

Through 104 teams games this year, Carp — hitting .215/.337/.304 entering his start against the Rays on Sunday — has played in 39 games, making 19 starts, with 95 total plate appearances. Through the first 104 games of 2013, Carp played in 54 games, making 36 starts, with 156 total plate appearances.

That said, Carp missed 33 team games while on the DL with a broken foot, explaining some of the disparity. Had he remained healthy, his playing time for the year would project to 57 games, 28 starts and 139 plate appearances through 104 games.

So, the Red Sox don’t believe that Carp’s playing opportunity has changed significantly. Yet they are aware of his displeasure in his current role.

“We’ve had a chance to sit down and talk. I respect his desire to play more,” said manager John Farrell. “And yet, when you’ve been very consistent with what his role was a year ago, that was to be the same role this year. And I understand where players want to get on the field more consistently. So I respect what he had to say.”

Felix Doubront likewise has said on multiple occasions that he does not see himself as a reliever. Yet the Sox believe that the 26-year-old has an opportunity to become a meaningful contributor in precisely that capacity, even as they acknowledge that based on stuff, ability and physicality, in another circumstance, he could be a starter.

Doubont is aware of that. He is beyond making any secret of his desire to return to the rotation.

“I just want to be a starter and stay there. If I stay (with the Red Sox), they have to know I have to be a starter. If I go, the other team is going to give me this chance to be a starter,” Doubront told Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com. “The thing is, if the (Red Sox) say I have to prove myself, I already did man. … It’€™s [messed] up. So if these guys say I have to pitch to prove whatever, no, they already know what I have. I showed them what I have, as a reliever and as a starter.

“For me, they don’€™t see the numbers, they don’€™t care what I’€™ve done in the past. It’€™s hard to be happy like that with these guys.”

But given his performance in the rotation compared to those of other pitchers — such as Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman and Sunday call-up Allen Webster — Farrell suggested that Doubront needed to be mindful not of whether he could be, in some sort of theoretical vacuum, a starter, but rather whether that’s his most valuable role on this roster, where a case can be made that other pitchers are more deserving of rotation spots.

“This is still a left-handed pitcher who’s got good stuff,” said Farrell. “Consistency has been something that’s always been a focal point from start to start, or in any given inning. That still remains. But when you start to grade out the physical abilities, you would think that he’s certainly capable of more [than a reliever]. …

“[But] there’s a clear role for him in the bullpen. Sometimes performance guides where you are slated or where you’re slotted. And sometimes, that’s where some objectivity has to come into play,” the manager added. “Like I said, I fully respect guys wanting an expanded role. Along with that comes the circumstances that they find themselves in. Who else is around them? Who else is competing for the same spots? You can’t turn away from that.”

These are the sorts of headaches that Farrell rarely confronted — at least not publicly — last year. Perhaps such outcomes were inevitable, with Carp and Doubront eventually struggling with a change of roles regardless of the team’s performance. But perhaps their frustrations with their roles are being magnified by the team’s declining fortunes, with shared goals yielding to personal ones.

“I think when teams are performing well as a group, there might be more of a willingness to accept a given role,” said Farrell. “But as I mentioned, I respect that a guy wants to get on the field. Yet there’s competition from within, and sometimes that wins out.”

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