The temperature was a bit chilly for Felix Doubront after he spent the last month in extended spring training in Florida.
That didn’t matter much. He had adrenaline to keep him warm and the excitement of being in a meaningful game in a new organization.
The 27-year-old left-handed pitcher made his 2015 debut Wednesday night, throwing a beautiful five innings for the Buffalo Bisons at Coca-Cola Field.
He gave up one hit and one walk in his scoreless outing, getting a no-decision as the Herd lost, 1-0, to the Durham Bulls.
“The adrenaline since my first pitch was really good,” Doubront said. “I was so happy to be here … and get my adrenaline and the energy throwing here. It was like, after the first pitch it was exciting.”
Doubront is two years removed from his best season of professional baseball when he won Game Four of the World Series for the Boston Red Sox. He went 11-6 that season, making four appearances in the postseason, going 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA.
But 2014 was bumpy. He began as a starter for the Red Sox, going 2-4 with a 5.19 ERA before being removed from the rotation on June 24. He was then traded to the Cubs on July 20 for a player to be named later, going 2-1 with a 3.98 ERA with Chicago.
He started 2015 as a member of the Cubs, but struggled in the Cactus League, giving up nine runs on 17 hits in 17 innings over four games. He was released by the Cubs on May 28 and signed by the Toronto Blue Jays as a free agent on April 2.
Doubront has been in extended spring training since, working on his shoulder strength and his endurance to return to a starter’s role.
He was activated off the disabled list and started strong on Wednesday for the Bisons, retiring the first 14 batters he faced before Curt Casali broke up the no-hitter with two outs in the fifth. He gave up a walk, then got a ground out to end his outing. In all he threw 75 pitches (41 for strikes) with three strikeouts.
“It is a fresh start. … A new beginning,” Doubront said. “This opportunity, I’m going to take everything that they’re going to give me. I’m going to do everything I can to be in the big leagues with this opportunity. I’m blessed to be back on a team and I want to be up there.”
He impressed manager Gary Allenson, who remembered watching Doubront five years ago when the pitcher was with Pawtucket, rising through the Red Sox ranks, and Allenson was managing Norfolk.
“How do you know the first time out?” Allenson said when asked if he knew what to expect from Doubront. “He’s been in extended spring training and there’s not much atmosphere there. Sometimes it’s a little shaky to start, but he did a great job. Obviously pitched well enough to win.
“It was real nice effort. Probably hasn’t been in too much chilly weather lately. He was locked right in. Showed some good stuff. Probably needs better command of his curve ball. But showed good command, tied them up for the most part.”
The biggest adjustment Doubront had to make was to the weather. With a 51-degree temperature at first pitch, it was vastly colder than his environment in Florida for the past month. Still, his shoulder felt good, his arm was loose and his pitches were landing for strikes.
“I don’t feel that cold when I’m pitching, but I know it was cold,” Doubront said. “In the fifth inning I was feeling my hands were a little bit dry and I knew after I had to make a little bit of an adjustment. … Don’t think about it, just pitch.
“I think I take this outing and do the same the next one. Today was perfect, timing, all my pitches. I can’t change anything. Just do the same for my next one.”