These last few weeks couldn’t have been easy for Red Sox left-hander Felix Doubront. With Clay Buchholz back and ready to pitch in the postseason, Doubront was sent to the pen at the end of the regular season after going 11-6 with a 3.87 ERA in his 27 starts. He didn’t want to make the move, and the Red Sox gave serious thought to leaving him off the postseason roster after he gave up five runs in 1 1/3 innings in his one relief appearance at the end of the season.
Doubront, though, was picked over Matt Thornton for the last spot in Boston’s pen. And for three weeks, he knew he was only going to pitch if things weren’t going very well. He didn’t work in the ALDS. His two ALCS appearances came with the Red Sox down 5-1 and 7-1 to the Tigers. He did, however, pitch 2 1/3 scoreless innings in those games, and the Red Sox came back and won the first of them, thanks to David Ortiz’s eighth-inning grand slam.
In the World Series, Doubront was again on the sidelines for two games, but he got the call in a tight game 3 after Jake Peavy’s early exit and pitched scoreless fifth and sixth innings. He was impressive enough that manager John Farrell bypassed Ryan Dempster and went right back to him in Game 4 tonight. This time, Doubront retired the first eight hitters he faced before giving up a single with two outs in the seventh. Craig Breslow replaced him and allowed the baserunner to come around, ruining Doubront’s perfect postseason ERA. Doubront, though, ended up with the win. He entered with the Red Sox down 1-0 and left with them up 4-1.
Doubront most likely will get a well deserved rest in Game 5 on Monday night, but in barely more than 24 hours, he’s transformed himself from guy who comes into losses to key player in the Boston pen. Of course, he’d still much rather be the key player in the rotation, but he’ll get that chance again next year.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Zach Buchanan report that the Diamondbacks are one of several teams that have used labs other than the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Utah to process COVID-19 testing. MLB has encountered delays with its testing, despite promising 24-hour turnaround time, so teams have tried other avenues — with the league’s endorsement — in order to get faster results.
The SMRTL had processed performance-enhancing drug screenings for MLB. The league converted it to process COVID-19 tests amid concerns that having a season and all of the testing that would be required throughout would take away testing resources from the general public. That some teams are utilizing labs other than the SMRTL suggests the league, indeed, is usurping those resources.
In prospect Seth Beer’s case, he tested positive for COVID-19. He needed to test negative twice consecutively to be cleared to return to play. Beer went to a third-party site in the Phoenix area. He received his second negative test and was cleared to return on July 9.
The Diamondbacks said that the labs they have used have assured them that they are not taking away tests from the public. That seems like a claim MLB and the D-Backs should demonstrably prove. Per Rosenthal and Buchahan, the D-Backs have gone to an outside lab about 20 times, which accounts for less than one percent of COVID-19 tests taken by players and staff. Still, those are 20 tests that could have been used by the general public. And if the D-Backs and a handful of other teams already are using outside labs, then the rest of the league likely already is or soon will be doing the same. In the end, there will be a lot more than 20 tests taken at outside labs by MLB players and staff. Considering that “Tier 1” players will be tested every other day throughout the season, the total of third-party tests taken — if things continue the way they are now — could easily reach into the thousands by the end of October.
We all want baseball back, but the players, coaches, and all other staff are no more important than cashiers, teachers, and delivery drivers, so they shouldn’t have more access to COVID-19 testing simply by virtue of being associated with Major League Baseball and all of its influence and financial muscle. It would be unethical for MLB to be cutting in line ahead of other people who need testing just as much as if not more than the players.