There are about four relievers (Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, Craig Breslow, and Koji Uehara) who are going to be given a bullpen spot regardless of how they perform this spring. Daniel Bard is not one of them. One of the best setup men in baseball from 2009-2011, the Red Sox made the erroneous decision to convert him to a starter in 2012. His control and velocity deteriorated and he had a horrendous season, posting a 6.22 ERA and walking 6.5 per nine innings before being demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket in May.
He never really found himself in a lost 2012 season, but he’s determined to change that in 2013. Bard showed up to camp early and today he pitched his first live batting practice session. Coaches and reporters who watched from the side said that Bard showed good control and Bard had some words in regards to his performance.
”It felt good. Just trying to work the kinks out. It takes a few pitches to get used to the having the cages and the L-screen in front but once you kind of settle in, it felt good… I threw all my pitches. The focus was on being in the strike zone as much as possible, trying to be down with everything. Toward the end, second half, I was pretty pleased and felt like I accomplished most of those goals.”
Bard is absolutely not guaranteed a spot in what should be one of the league’s best bullpens. However, it’s fantastic that he’s out to grab one of the few spots remaining in what would be the front end of the ‘pen. He is sort of the forgotten man after his lost 2012 season, but we can’t forget that he was arguably the league’s best setup man in the years before last. If he can come close to the level he was at, this bullpen is just one notch better.