“I think Daniel has a phenomenal career ahead of him, and in my opinion, there’s no reason why he can’t start. I think Daniel can do whatever he wants to do. He’s that good. And he’s matured into a phenomenal pitcher and is only going to get better, and I think the sky’s the limit for him. It truly, really is.”
Bobby Valentine? Ben Cherington? Bob McClure?
Nope! The speaker was Jon Papelbon.
And he should know about trying to make the shift from closer to starter; he tried it in Spring training five years ago and took a pass:
“When that happened with me, I just had to go with my heart. I had to go with what I felt like I was going to be successful at for 162 games…For me, when I asked myself that question, it was closing. I learned how to pitch in college, being a closer, and that’s just what drives me. That’s what gets me up every morning and want to go to work, so I couldn’t ignore that.” he told Scott Lauber, Boston Herald.
Papelbon was effusive in his praise of Bard:
“I actually had a long talk with Daniel this off-season about that…I’m excited to see what he can do.”
For Papelbon, the big difference is attitude; a closer, like a fireman, is on call, everyday; the fire fighter can’t schedule an emergency and the closer can’t know when a save situation might emerge.
Making the transition from closer [or set-up guy] involves “stretching it out” and starting to pitch more innings per season, but it also means no longer being required to warm up quickly and often; it allows a pitcher to go onto a reliable schedule and 4 or 5-day preparation routine. Instead of the pen pitcher’s short bursts of arm exertion on an irregular basis, the starter uses his arm for a more predictable number of pitches every 4-5 days.
Pitchers who require a great number of warm-up tosses to get loose and not good candidates for the pen; you may notice that these type of starters get hit hard in the first inning, then “settle down.” Some pitching coaches will try to remedy this problem by telling the starter to add another 10-20 additional pitches to their pre-game warm-up routine to “leave that first inning in the pen.”
The former Bard of The Pen has the full confidence of a premier closer, who was wise enough to realize that starting was not his strong suit, but who believes his former pen pal will succeed in the Red Sox’ regular rotation.