Former Red Sox pitcher Daniel Bard makes improbable comeback

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 27: Daniel Bard #51 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Houston Astros during the game on April 27, 2013 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 27: Daniel Bard #51 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Houston Astros during the game on April 27, 2013 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) /

Former Red Sox pitcher Daniel Bard is making a comeback.

Never give up on your dreams. Daniel Bard achieved his over a decade ago when he reached the majors with the Boston Red Sox, only for his promising career to unravel. While many players would eventually abandon their dream after several failed comeback attempts, Bard kept trying and was rewarded with a spot on a major league roster for the first time in over seven years.

Bard hasn’t appeared in a major league game since 2013 but his long overdue return will finally come this year as the Colorado Rockies informed him that he’s earned a spot on their Opening Day roster.

The Red Sox selected Bard with the No. 28 overall pick in the first round of the 2006 draft. He made his major league debut three years later and quickly established himself as one of the game’s top setup men.

At his peak, the right-hander was a dominant reliever who overpowered hitters with a blazing fastball that reached 100 mph. He struck out over a batter per inning and was often trusted to use that ability to get the Red Sox out of a jam with runners on base.

Bard was outstanding out of Boston’s bullpen in 2010, posting a 1.93 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 9.2 K/9 in 73 appearances. He even picked up a few rouge saves and it was clear the Red Sox were grooming him to be the heir apparent to then-closer Jonathan Papelbon.

The excellent production carried over through most of the following season but the first sign of trouble reared its ugly head during Boston’s epic September collapse in 2011. Bard walked nine batters, tripling his total from any other single month that season, and surrendered 13 earned runs in 11 innings down the stretch. He was tagged with the loss four times that month, contributing more than his fair share of the damage as the Red Sox chocked away their postseason spot on the final day of the regular season.

Instead of trying to get his career as a future closer back on track, Bobby Valentine moved Bard into the rotation. Most of Bobby V’s decisions backfired during his tumultuous tenure as manager of the Red Sox but converting Bard into a starter was arguably his most damaging.

Bard struggled in his new role as his fastball saw a drastic dip in velocity and he seemingly couldn’t find the plate. He went 4-6 with a 5.30 ERA in 10 starters before Valentine mercifully pulled the plug on the experiment. In his final major league start on June 3, 2012, Bard was lit up for five earned runs while walking six batters in only 1 2/3 innings.

A demotion to Triple-A Pawtucket failed to straighten Bard out. He returned to Boston as a reliever in August but struggled even more than he had during his time as a starter. Bard walked five batters and was was roughed up for nine earned runs in five innings of relief to wrap up his nightmare season.

Bard made only two appearances in April of 2013, giving up a run in one inning of work. His brief stint on the active roster that year earned him a World Series ring but he hasn’t been seen on a major league mound since then.

A once-promising career lasted only parts of five seasons before spiraling down the drain. Bard’s downfall was a sudden loss of command. By the end of his career he was incapable of throwing strikes and many wondered if he was dealing with a case of the yips.

Bard went all the way back to A-ball to try to rediscover his previous form but he couldn’t find it. His minor league stints in the Rangers, Cardinals and Mets organizations ended with disastrous results. Bard made it as far as Double-A in 2017 before his career flamed out.

Or so we thought. Bard took a job as a mentor with the Arizona Diamondbacks and often lent his advice to young players. It was through working with other pitchers that Bard realized that his arm still has something left in the tank.

Bard signed a minor league deal with the Rockies in February and received an invitation to camp. He impressed his new team enough to win a spot on Colorado’s 30-man roster to open the season.

Coors Field isn’t exactly the ideal environment for a pitcher trying to build confidence but Bard will take any opportunity he can get. It’s been over seven years since he pitched in the big leagues and he’s on the verge of a triumphant return.

Projected standings show improved playoff odds. dark. Next

There hasn’t been much to celebrate in 2020 but Bard’s unexpected return to the majors is undoubtedly one of the best feel-good baseball stories of the year.