Bard still in search of 2011 form in return to Boston bullpen
In 2011, Daniel Bard was one of the best relievers in Major League Baseball; he struck out 74 batters over 73 innings while walking only 24. It was his second full season in the majors and the future seemed bright for the electric-armed setup man.
Fast-forward to 2013 and Bard has lost his velocity, control and possibly his career.
The “Daniel Bard experiment” in 2012 will long be remembered as one of the biggest mistakes the Sox ever made. For some reason, someone thought Bard would excel as a starting pitcher rather than a reliever, and so Bard was slotted as the team’s No. 5 starter. While former manager Bobby Valentine made plenty of mistakes in Boston, he was right about having doubts about Bard starting.
Bard’s first month as a starting pitcher was not altogether terrible. Through four games in April he was 2-2 with a 3.72 ERA, but then he began to fall apart. His last start was on June 3 against the Toronto Blue Jays. He lasted 1 2/3 innings but gave up five runs while walking six and hitting two batters. Bard would not appear in the majors again until August, and he finished the season with a 5-6 record and a 6.22 ERA.
We may never fully understand what happened to Daniel Bard in 2012. He was once the Sox’ elite setup man, a flamethrower who could locate his fastball with pinpoint accuracy while dropping his change-up and slider in on hitters to keep them off balance.
This season, Bard didn’t make it out of the Sox camp in Spring Training; instead manager John Farrell had him sent down to AA to work on his mechanics and build his confidence. Over nine innings of work in AA, Bard has a 0-0 record alongside a 4.00 ERA.
On Wednesday, however, Bard was called back up to the Sox after the team sent Alfredo Aceves down to Pawtucket for his continued antics and ineffectiveness on the mound. While Bard has faced many barriers to his success in the MLB, he said he remains hopeful for his return to the Red Sox.
“It feels good to be here. It’s been an interesting road,” Bard said during batting practice Wednesday. “I think going to Portland for a little while was probably the best thing. I was with a good group of guys and I couldn’t ask for more out of the coaching staff there. They were awesome. But it’s always nice to see this place.”
Bard said despite the numbers, he has seen improvement in his fastball. Farrell said that Bard is hitting 93-96 mph on his fastball, which is not where Bard once was, but it is still an improvement. The pitcher has not concerned himself about the velocity of his fastball, but said he he has noticed a few changes when he takes the mound.
“I’ve been getting a lot of defensive swings on my fastball, righties and lefties,” Bard said. “A lot of broken bats mixed in. That always tells you you’re doing something right, that the fastball has a little life to it.”
With the addition of Bard, the Sox are adding a potentially premier reliever to an already stacked bullpen. If Bard can regain his 2011 form, then there is no stopping him from achieving a level of considerable success as an elite reliever in the MLB.