The Toronto Blue Jays added some starting pitching depth to the organization Thursday.
The club, which is projected to open the season with two starters with a combined one big league start (Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris), reached a minor-league deal with veteran pitcher Felix Doubront.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Blue Jays’ new pitcher, a left-hander who spent the majority of spring training with the Chicago Cubs before being granted his release March 28:
Name: Felix Doubront
Born: Carabobo, Venezuela
Weight: 225 pounds
Signed: by the Red Sox as an amateur free agent in 2005.
2014 stats: 79.2 innings, 14 starts, 4-5, 5.54 ERA, 51 strikeouts, 33 walks, 12 home runs allowed, 1.55 WHIP
Doubront is expected to start the year in Florida to get stretched out for a couple of weeks before he heads to triple-A Buffalo to work as a starting pitcher at the end of the month.
The veteran left-hander appealed to the Blue Jays for a few reasons. He provides insurance in the event of an injury or if one of Norris or Sanchez struggles at the MLB league level. And while Doubront is out of options, he has three years of club control, something Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos covets.
Doubront made his MLB debut in a 2010 start against the Los Angeles Dodgers, allowing three earned runs on six hits with two strikeouts and two walks in five innings of work in 1-0 victory. It was just a spot start, so Doubront was optioned back to triple-A Pawtucket immediately following the game.
For the next two years, he bounced between Boston and the minors before beating out Aaron Cook and Alfredo Aceves to win a rotation spot out of spring training in 2012. The 2012 season turned out to be a solid year for Doubront. He finished the season with 11 wins, 167 strikeouts, and a 4.86 ERA in 167.0 innings, impressing the team with his potential.
He continued in the rotation the following season, starting 27 games (11-6) while posting a career-best 4.32 ERA for a Red Sox squad that won 97 games and the World Series. He didn’t make a playoff start but appeared in four post-season games out of the bullpen and earned his first-ever playoff victory in Game 4 of the World Series.
However, things went south between Doubront and the Red Sox in 2014. He even injured his shoulder on a car door.
He opened the year in the rotation but was moved to the bullpen after the club grew unhappy with his inconsistency. Doubront was displeased with the move and his role under Boston manager John Farrell.
“First of all, I’m not a reliever,” Doubront told reporters last June. “They know that. They just, you know, it’s hard but I don’t know what they’re doing. I know they’re not doing the right thing for me. That’s what I know right now at this moment. I’m an employee just following the order but they know I’m not happy. I don’t know what they’re going to do in the future but I’m don’t want to be a reliever the whole year, that’s what I know.”
His lowest point came after an implosion against the Blue Jays last July. Farrell was reportedly displeased with the disgruntled Doubront after the left-hander allowed six earned runs in two thirds of an inning in a 14-1 loss at Fenway Park. The Red Sox manager sat down with Doubront after the game and the club traded him to the Chicago Cubs just days later for a player to be named later.
“I can’t say that it was one thing,” Farrell told reporters after the trade. “But he seemed to never get on a roll like he did last year.”
The Cubs seemed like a perfect landing spot for Doubront. Team president Theo Epstein was the general manager of the Red Sox when they signed Doubront as an amateur free agent out of Venezuela and had strong familiarity with the talented left-hander.
He made four starts (2-1) with the Cubs at the end of the 2014 season, allowing nine earned runs in 20.1 innings with eight strikeouts and seven walks.
Chicago hired a new manager this past off-season (Joe Maddon) and internally the club was hoping Doubront could compete for a spot in the starting rotation. He was in consideration for the fifth starter’s job before he struggled in Cactus League action, allowing nine runs on 17 hits, including two home runs, in 7.0 innings.
Ultimately the club decided to release Doubront so he could get a head start on finding a new team.
That’s when the Blue Jays came into the picture.