- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
At that point, Bard already had it in his mind that he wanted to either start or close for the Red Sox, depending on Papelbon's status.
Papelbon signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in November, but by then Bard and the Sox had already decided he would be converted to a starter. It was a role Bard embraced. Unfortunately, he struggled and was optioned to Pawtucket on June 7.
He made a brief, one-inning scheduled start for the PawSox on June 8 and allowed three runs on two hits with two strikeouts and two hit batsmen. After that outing he said he wasn't comfortable starting in that capacity and would rather work on his mechanics out of the bullpen, and the organization agreed.
He worked out of the bullpen on June 11 and allowed one run on one hit with one walk and two strikeouts in one inning of work. On June 14, he tossed two scoreless innings and posted four strikeouts and one walk and finally felt like he was back.
Bard followed it up with another solid outing on June 17, when he pitched two scoreless innings and allowed only two hits with two strikeouts.
However, he didn't get the results Wednesday, when he blew his first save of the year. He worked a total of 1 1/3 innings and allowed two runs on two hits and threw two wild pitches that allowed both runs to score.
The idea of Bard finally becoming the team's closer in Boston hasn't entered his mind.
"I'm not really focused on that right now," he said. "I'm kind of over trying to be sexy. Just find my role, get comfortable again. Feel like I'm getting close. Whatever role I pitch in, that's essentially up to the team, up to the manager."
A major difference this season has been Bard's decline in velocity. He consistently reached 96 to 99 MPH on the radar gun and could reach 100 when needed. That hasn't been the case this season and he routinely would throw 93 or 94 when he was in Boston, but he's beginning to find his form with the PawSox.
He believes once he totally regains his confidence then the velocity will come back.
"I might be too old to do that anymore," Bard said with a laugh. "It feels good. Coming back. When my delivery's good, mid-90s is there, which, if I'm throwing the ball anywhere near where I want to, that should be plenty to get guys out. We'll see what happens.
"Think there's something in that last 2 percent of your delivery, where when you're throwing with great conviction, you're going to max out your velocity. When you're not quite at full conviction, it takes off that extra 2 or 3 mph. Maybe that's what I'm reaching out for now. I don't know if it's going to come back. To be honest, that's the one thing I've tried to block out of my mind is velocity. I think it's a by-product."
Despite all his struggles this season and his decline in velocity, Bard is beginning to resemble the type of pitcher he was as a reliever in Boston.
"There's a feel I'm looking for on the mound, and I've had it two out of my last three outings for sure," he said. "It's a feel. I know when that feel's there, I can get anyone out. It really doesn't matter what the radar gun says."
The Red Sox attempted to take the pitcher out of the bullpen, but it became obvious that you can't take the bullpen out of the pitcher. Bard is ready to return to form once he's given the opportunity.
"I've accepted where I'm at. I'm here for a reason," he said. "I have to try to get better every day. The nice thing about it this time is I've got a lot of stuff I can look back on, video and everything, where OK, I've dominated at a higher level before. Go out and do it here, and get the call when it comes."