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Doubront expects to be major piece of rotation in 2014

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Firmer in his core and more confident than ever in his ability, Felix Doubront has the appearance of a man on a mission as he enters his third season in the Red Sox's starting rotation.

When Doubront struggled physically down the stretch in 2012, you could chalk it up as a young pitcher learning firsthand what it takes to survive over the course of a long season. But when it happened again last year, eyebrows were raised and Doubront realized he should have done more to prevent it.

This winter, Doubront worked under the supervision of trainers at the IMG facility in Sarasota.

"That's why this offseason was different, to make sure I'm stronger during the year," said Doubront. "That's what I wanted to change this year. That's the goal that I did this year -- it's to be strong the whole year, and it's a big year for me, too. I'll work hard for that."

Yes, indeed, it is a big year for Doubront, one in which he hopes to prove he can be consistent for six months instead of three or four. He has already made a good impression on manager John Farrell, who checked in on Doubront at his training facility.

"I think what he's realizing are the benefits of a structured program that he works at consistently," Farrell said. "We look forward to seeing how that translates once he gets on the mound and into games. I had a chance to visit him up there, and he was excited, I think both in terms of what he was feeling in terms of just strength, but lighter on his feet -- not by losing weight, but just by the overall strength. He comes into camp in much better shape."

And with just one numerical goal.

"Yeah, that's the main goal -- to go up to 200 innings," Doubront said. "That's the first goal I have, and to stay healthy the whole season."

Nobody has ever questioned Doubront's talent. He has the stuff to not just survive, but thrive in a Major League rotation. Now, he brings added maturity and strength to the mix, which could help lead to his best season yet.

"I'm growing up," Doubront said. "I'm learning from last year and the last two years. I'm trying to learn more and trying to be that strong starting pitcher."

The change isn't just in strengthening. Doubront has also altered his mechanics, which he hopes will make him more powerful and have better command.

"My arm speed, I changed my mechanics a little bit," said Doubront. "Trying to be shorter. There's a lot of things new for me. I'm making my windup from the stretch more simple. My shoulder is strong now, so I'm changing all my mechanics. It's a little bit different, but more throwing strikes. Everything changed. The big thing is that I feel good -- I feel great."

Just when it seemed like Doubront's 2013 season had gone into a downward spiral, he came up big for the Red Sox when they needed it most, as a reliever in the postseason. In the American League Championship Series and World Series, he gave up one run over seven innings. This, after Doubront was initially lukewarm about transitioning to the bullpen in the postseason.

"That was great," Doubront said. "In that moment, I was just strongly focused in that situation. Everybody was just trying to get outs. I was just so focused."

The October bullpen cameos aside, Doubront has no doubt in his ability to take the ball every fifth day.

"I'm a starter, I feel like I'm there, man," Doubront said. "I have a lot of years to do that, and the main thing is to keep myself strong. The opportunity I had before, I learned from it."

It is more important than ever that Doubront has a strong showing in camp. Including Doubront, the Red Sox have six established starting pitchers vying for five spots.

"I don't know nothing yet," Doubront said. "That's going to be their decision. I'm going to do what I do best and just try to keep it that way, and [we'll] see after Spring Training or during Spring Training what everybody's role is going to be. So I'm just going to do my job and that's it."

The highlight of Doubront's winter was his return to Venezuela, where he learned how different life is when you are a World Series champion.

"It was crazy," Doubront said. "I was home for three weeks and everybody was like, 'Come to my house.' You know, with the championship and all that, everybody wanted to see me. It was a really short time, but I enjoyed being there and getting together with my whole family."

Of course, Doubront never realized how big his family was until he won a World Series.

"A lot of people came to see me," Doubront said. "Even family that I didn't know ... they would watch the TV and say, 'Oh yeah, you're my family.' They came to throw a big party for me in my hometown. This year, I'll have to bring the ring, so it's going to be crazy."

Ian Browne is a reporter for Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne.

Boston Red Sox, Felix Doubront