To all the citizens of Red Sox Nation, who worry about whether Daniel, The Pen Bard, can step up to a slot in the rotation, new Boston pitching coach, Bob McClure says, he did it and so did many of the Old School starters, even Hall of Famer, Jim Palmer.
“We all used to do it…A lot of us were brought up through the pen and then went into the starting rotation. If you’re going to look at Bard, go back 30-40 years ago. Even Jim Palmer started out of the bullpen. Back then, you’d get your feet wet, develop a third pitch, and then, ‘Let’s look at this guy and see how he does.’” McClure told Nick Cafardo of Boston.com
Bard is in sync with his coach: “I’ve talked to a lot of guys who made this transition, McClure being one of them when he played and a couple of other guys with other teams. If you’re throwing 75 innings out of the pen and throwing every other day, it’s just as much wear and tear on your arm as throwing 100 pitches every five days or 200 innings.
Guys who have done both say it’s just as tough and you’re just as tired when the season ends.’’
Entering Spring training with a healthy arm, Bard admits that he was pitching through pain most of last season:
“I was throwing with a sore arm in about two-thirds of my outings and now I won’t have to throw with a sore arm at all.”
Bard recognizes that the physical demands on his arm will be vastly different:
“Physically, getting my body ready to throw 100 pitches rather than 15 or 20 is an obvious change.”
He knows that his pacing and approach will change drastically too; as a reliever he had to be mentally prepared to enter almost any game and often had to warm up, even though he did not enter a game. The term “rotation” means “a regular turn,” and he knows he will be on a regular 5-day clock and will have a different training regimen and no longer be required to throw in an haphazard pattern.
McClure told Cafardo that “there will be sure signs as to whether Bard is handling the transition:
1. if he can repeat his delivery for at least six innings.
2. if he can come up with a third pitch that is a contrast to his other two.
3. if he can find a “comfortable’’ velocity at which he can command his pitches.”
Bard has been primarily focused on developing an off-speed pitch to contrast with his high heat:
“I’m excited to use it more and throw it against righties and it’ll be fun. It’s kind of a splitter or a sinker at 91-92 m.p.h. with arm-side movement. If I can get it up into the high 80s and low 90s, that would be ideal.’’ he told Cafardo.
Two former Red Sox pitchers had opposite results, when attempting to switch from reliever to starter: Papelbon tried it in Spring training in 2007, but quickly found it was not working for him, while Justin Masterson has mastered starting and is in the Cleveland rotation; he started the transition in 2009 after he was traded in July to the Indians in the Victor Martinez deal and started 10 games that year, 29 in 2010, and 33 in 2011 with a 12-10 record.
Without citing his sore arm as an excuse, Bard accepts his share of the responsibililty for the September Swoon, when posted a nightmare 10.64 ERA, allowing 13 earned runs in 11 innings in 11 September appearances:
“You can’t help but think about it…But it’s over with. It was a fluke thing for the team and for me personally.” he told Cafardo.
The vast majority of the pundits in the media, on Red Sox websites, and bloggers, as well as the citizen commentators of Red Sox Nation, concur: the team’s fortunes will turn on whether Buchholz and Bard can handle the rigors of the starting rotation.