Daniel Bard went into this mornings game having never thrown more than five innings in a major league start and never reached the 100 pitch plateau–yet there he was with two out in the seventh, 111 pitches on his inexperienced right arm and finally being yanked after allowing three walks and a hit in the inning.
Some would say that Bobby V made the wrong decision by sticking with Bard even though he was entering an unfamiliar place, but I say it was the right call.
Going into the inning he had only thrown 87 pitches and after a two pitch groundout by Jeff Keppinger and a three pitch strikeout to Jose Molina he was still at just 92 pitches but that’s when the trouble started.
Sean Rodriguez worked a six pitch walk that put Bard at 98 pitches, Desmond Jennings hit a single on the fifth pitch of his at-bat and Carlos Pena walked on four pitches putting Bard at 107 pitches on the afternoon.
Bob McClure made a trip to the mound but as Bobby V stated after the game, Bard was determined to work his way out of the jam he had created.
“[McClure] went out, said just make sure you see the right look in his eye,” said Valentine. “He came back and he said he’s very determined. He wants it. Everyone wants it.”
As it turned out Bard was just a little too tired to get out of the jam and walked Evan Longoria on four pitches to serve up the only run of the game and end his outing at 111 pitches.
It’s easy to look at the situation and say Valentine made the wrong decision but that’s not the case. The Red Sox may have lost the game but the experience gained by their promising young starter will prove essential down the road.
Hearing the comments made after the game echo’s that point.
“I learned a lot. I know what it feels like. I know what my body is going to feel like. It felt pretty good,” said Bard. “I think it was more when you get up that high, that it’s a big jump from 90 to 100 or 105, just physically and mentally, too. It’s hard to maintain focus for that long, for that many pitches. That’s something I can learn from and improve on.”
Bumps in the road are as important to a newly converted starter as success. In this game Bard was able to experience both, which figures to make him better in the long run. If he can grasp his command and cut down on the free passes, the sky’s the limit.