Former Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard’s comeback earned him an award
Daniel Bard‘s return to the majors following a six-year absence was one of the season’s best stories and earned him the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award. Now the right-hander is being honored with another award named after Boston Red Sox legend Tony Conigliaro.
The Tony Conigliaro Award is presented to a “Major Leaguer who has overcome adversity through the attributes of spirit, determination and courage that were trademarks of Tony C,” according to MLB.com. The Red Sox instituted the award in 1990 to honor the promising outfielder whose career was cut short due to declining vision, the result of being struck in the face by a pitch in 1967.
"“From my days playing in Boston, I remember how special this award is,” Bard said in a statement. “Not only because of Tony’s story and the incredible obstacles he had to overcome, but I also remember the list of names of all the great players who have won previously. I am grateful to those who voted for me and to the New England baseball community for their support over the years. I am honored to be chosen as this year’s recipient.”"
Bard spent parts of five seasons in Boston to open his career after the Red Sox selected him in the first round of the 2006 draft. He emerged as one of the league’s top relief pitchers, posting a 2.88 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 9.7 K/9 through his first three seasons.
Once viewed as the heir apparaent for the closer role, Bard’s career went off the tracks in 2012 when he developed a debilitating case of the yips that deprived him of any semblance of control over where he was throwing the ball. His walk rate skyrocketed to 6.5 BB/9 while his strikeout rate plummeted to 5.8 K/9.
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Bard made two brief appearances in 2013 before his major league career unceremoniously came to an end. He made several comeback attempts in the minors in an attempt to work his way back up from the lowest levels but never made it higher than Double-A before throwing in the towel in 2017.
He joined the Arizona Diamondbacks in a mentoring role only to discover that he still had that itch to pitch. Bard signed a minor league deal with the Colorado Rockies and earned himself a spot on their major league roster for the shortened 2020 season.
Bard exceeded anyone’s expectations by resembling the elite setup arm he was early in his career. He posted a 3.65 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 3.6 BB/9 and 9.9 K/9 in 23 games for the Rockies. He also converted all six of his save opportunities.
Coming out of a lengthy retirement to post these type of numbers would be impressive under any conditions, let alone doing so while pitching his home games in the most hitter-friendly ballpark in the majors.
Red Sox fans have to be happy for Bard successfully completing his long journey back to the majors even if he’s thriving in another team’s uniform.