It wasn’t that long ago that Daniel Bard was Boston’s hands down heir apparent to Jonathan Papelbon.He had the right stuff: an electric arm and mental toughness mixed with the right amount of internal shut down cockiness. That was before the 2012 season, a campaign that pushed him to his limits and ultimately to some serious offseason soul-searching.
On December 29, 2011 Oakland As closer Andrew Bailey, along with Ryan Sweeney, was traded to the Red Sox. Bard was asked to become a starting pitcher. He was bad from the get go, either getting knocked around hard after a few decent innings or eventually becoming so wild opposing batters actually got jumpy in the box.
Even though Bailey went down before opening day with a bum thumb, an injury that would keep him out of action nearly the entire season, then manager Bobby Valentine insisted on keeping Bard in the starting rotation, instead tapping Alfredo Aceves as the closer.
Bard continued to worsen and was eventually removed from the starting rotation too late by Valentine. The damage had been done. Bard moved to the pen, continued his wild, inconsistent, ineffective ways and spent the rest of the season in the minors trying to get his control, psychological balance and mojo back. It didn’t happen.
Now, as always, hope springs eternal as grown men head to Florida and Arizona to sharpen their skills and play a child’s game at a very high level – so one would hope. Therein lies the promise and precariousness of Bard’s situation.
Daniel Bard will turn 28-years old early in the 2013 season, his fifth major league campaign. It is a crucial year for him and the Red Sox. He badly needs to have a bounce back season if he’s to win a role. Boston badly needs to get back to respectability after what can only be characterized as a 2012 voyage on the Titanic with Captain Valentine.
If Bard returns to form, the back end of Boston’s bullpen – relievers Alfredo Aceves, Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Andrew Miller, Franklin Morales, Andrew Bailey (setup) and Joel Hanrahan (closer) – could become a force in the American League. Where Bard fits in is largely up to him. He will have to win a role in spring training in a crowded field that also includes Clayton Mortensen, Craig Breslow plus some rookie dark horse candidates and trades like Rubby De La Rosa.
Almost to the day of the one-year anniversary of the Bailey trade Bard commented to WEEI’s Rob Bradford about Boston’s acquisition of Hanrahan as their new closer. “I haven’t really thought about how it affects my situation,” Bard told Bradford. “I know I have a lot to prove coming into spring training, and I’m getting ready for that. Obviously my goal is to get back to the role I held for two or three years, setting up or better. Whatever I earn, that’s my goal.”
If there is a positive spin for Bard going into spring training it’s that new manager John Farrell, once Bard’s pitching coach for two seasons and a man who understands him, will likely be assisting new pitching coach Juan Nieves with evaluation and personnel management.
Bard will need to unequivocally show the Red Sox that has the velocity, control and confidence back that he lost last year. Otherwise, with the field so crowded he could be relegated to starting the season in the minors.
Get back, get back.
Get back to where you once belonged
Get back, get back.
Get back to where you once belonged.
Get back Jojo, go home
- Get Back, The Beatles