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After strong preseason, ex-MLB pitcher struggling for last-place club in regular season

All Headlines 11:40 April 20, 2018

SEOUL, April 20 (Yonhap) -- After a strong preseason in March, former big league pitcher Felix Doubront has struggled mightily for the last-place Lotte Giants in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).

Doubront suffered his fourth loss of the season on Thursday against the Samsung Lions at Sajik Stadium in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul. In five starts in his first KBO season, the left-hander is 0-4 with an 8.37 ERA. He has walked 20 batters in 23 2/3 innings, while striking out 18.

This was Doubront's first quality start of the year, as he gave up three earned runs in six innings. But a closer examination reveals there was nothing quality about his outing, and the Giants lost the game 6-0 to drop to the league-worst record of 6-14.

In each of the first four innings, Doubront allowed the leadoff batter to reach base. He was touched for nine hits, gave up five walks and hit a batter. He faced three different bases-loaded jams.

In this file photo from March 30, 2018, Felix Doubront of the Lotte Giants pitches against the NC Dinos in a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Sajik Stadium in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)

This isn't the Doubront the Giants had hoped or even expected to see -- not after he allowed just one earned run in nine innings across the spring training outings, while striking out eight against two walks.

He has a career major league record of 31-26 with a 4.89 ERA, and won 11 games for the Boston Red Sox in both 2012 and 2013, and won the World Series in 2013.

The Venezuelan has been a shell of his former self here, though. The Giants would certainly like to see Doubront throw a little harder. He is ranked 18th among starting pitchers with an average fastball velocity of 141.8 kilometers per hour, with the first 12 spots in the rankings all occupied by foreign pitchers. Even some those who were acquired as finesse pitchers, including Tyler Wilson of the LG Twins, are throwing harder.

And Doubront's performance is in stark contrast to the former Lotte pitcher whose void Doubront has filled: right-hander Josh Lindblom, now with the Doosan Bears, is 4-1 with a 2.78 ERA.

Lotte manager Cho Won-woo sat down with Doubront on Tuesday, trying to help the pitcher find his groove. The manager specifically asked the pitcher to attack hitters and be more aggressive on the mound, but his response was giving up five walks.

The leash on Doubront may never have been shorter than now, but the Giants can't afford to cut him and spend a few weeks searching for a replacement. They're already down two regular starters from last season, Song Seung-jun and Park Se-woong. Song left his start last Wednesday with a left hamstring injury, while Park hasn't even pitched this year while battling right elbow issues.

The Giants are the worst pitching team in the KBO, with a 5.78 ERA, and they've issued a league-high 98 walks.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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