Takeaways from the Fort: Bard on a mission
March, 10, 2012
By Rick Weber | ESPNBoston.com
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A few takeaways from the Fort, where the Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-0, Saturday on an atypical March night featuring a driving rainstorm that chased away most of the fans not under cover.
Daniel Bard is taking this starting-pitcher thing pretty seriously: In his second start of the spring, he gave up two hits and no runs in three innings, while striking out one and walking two -- a worthy follow-up to his debut, when he tossed two no-hit innings against the Orioles.
“The past two years in spring, I’ve been able to take it slow,” he said. “I knew I’d be in the bullpen either way, no matter how I pitched. Here, my role is up in the air. I have things to prove. That definitely gives me motivation to go out there and tell myself, ‘These games mean something.’ Because they do mean something to me.”
Your role is up in the air?
“It is until I’m told otherwise,” he said. “That’s how it has to be. I’m not going to change the way I prepare.”
Bard threw strikes on 30 of his 49 pitches, mixing in an estimated 12 changeups while throwing only a few sliders. He said the two walks were the only upsetting aspect of the night.
“I was trying to be a little too perfect with some pitches,” he said. “The way my body and mind work, I can’t do that. I have to stay aggressive and in a competitive mindset. When I lose track of that and start thinking in (pre-game) bullpen mode and try to work on stuff and throw to perfect locations, the results usually aren’t good. It kind of got under my skin. And then I got the juices flowing.”
Said manager Bobby Valentine, “I think when he gets a little more velocity on his fastball, that changeup is going to be very, very effective.”
March mistakes: The second inning got bizarre when Rays CF B.J. Upton casually dropped an easy liner by Jose Iglesias, allowing Iglesias to reach third. It got even more bizarre when Jacoby Ellsbury squared up to bunt, then pulled the bat back and took a pitch as Iglesias came sliding into home -- easily tagged out by catcher Chris Gimenez.
“That was a fake steal of home,” Valentine said. “A little breakdown on the communication. The pitcher was pitching out of a windup, where he shouldn’t have been. I don’t like guys doing that. I like them to respect the runner. So it was supposed to be a fake steal, and I think the fake was not communicated properly.”
Dynamic duo: Alfredo Aceves and Bard have been spring bookends. Aceves gave up two hits and no runs in three innings. In five innings over two games, he has not given up a run.
Valentine said Aceves is probably capable of serving as both a reliever and starter, a la Bob Stanley, “but I’d hate to break camp with that as a plan.”
Darnell's doing it: Outfielder Darnell McDonald is scalding the ball. Coming off a 2-for-2 Friday night that featured a homer and double, he lashed a double down the left-field line in his first at-bat Saturday and is now hitting .455.
“Just trying to have some good at-bats,” he said. “We’re all trying to get our timing. It feels good to square some balls up. Hopefully I can keep it going.”
Papi in football pads? In the clubhouse before the game, infielder Nick Punto suggested that if 6-foot-4, 230-pound David Ortiz had grown up in the United States, he’d have played football instead of baseball. Ortiz wasn’t buying that. He said he was friends with ex-Patriots running back Lawrence Maroney, and found it preposterous that Maroney thought baseball was more physically intimidating.
“He was like, ‘That ball hurts too much,’ ” Ortiz said. “I said, ‘I see you getting crushed.’ He said, ‘Yeah, but I can get prepared. That baseball, when it’s coming, I don’t know where it’s going.’ ”
Ortiz said if he had played football, it would have been on defense.
“Gotta go with defense, so I can crush some (bleep),” he said.
Moving on: Ortiz on last season’s September collapse: “It’s last year. What can I do about it? It’s like when you play the lottery and miss by one number. What can you do? Play again.”
Pleasant surprise: Asked to name the biggest surprise of camp so far, McDonald said, “It’s just good to see most of the pitchers healthy, for the most part. That’s the key to the season.”
He said the biggest surprise from an individual standpoint is outfielder Josh Kroeger, who’s hitting .273 with a double and RBI: “Every time I see him, he’s hitting something hard. But to be honest, a lot of people look good.”
Bailey can't wait: Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey, who will make his first Grapefruit League appearance Monday after recovering from a lat strain suffered during spring training physicals, said he’s been impatient, but realistic: “Being on a new team, you want to be out with the guys. But I think everybody understands the most important date is Opening Day.”
Salty language: Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was watching one of the six LG monitors in the clubhouse before the game when he saw a highlight of Dustin Pedroia launching a high fastball over the Green Monster.
“Why would you ever swing at that?” he shouted toward Pedroia’s locker.
“Already fence high,” Pedroia said. “Just tap it. Tap it.”
Going bald: Rays manager Joe Maddon announced that he and Rays players and staff will shave their heads on Thursday to pay tribute to children battling cancer.