Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard kept a player diary for ESPNBoston.com at the end of last season. Bard is back and wants to talk about spring training now that he is no longer a rookie, what he did in the offseason and what he meant when he said he wants to be a closer. (As told to Louise K. Cornetta)
This spring training is different from last year because I was a rookie. Now I'm not making a first impression anymore. Last year, a lot of people were seeing me for the first time, whether it was coaches or the front office or teammates. I had to make a lot of first impressions, which is kind of in the back of your mind the whole time. Now it's like I know where I fit in. I know the guys on the team and personalities. I have an idea of what my role probably will be. That's not completely defined, but there are a lot more things I can be sure of. I try to prepare the same way with a goal in mind -- like I'm trying to make the team and trying to earn a spot, which in a way we all are. I’m trying to keep things as much the same as possible, but there's definitely an ability to kind of be able to relax.
You want to know the best part of no longer being a rookie? I don't have to dress up in a sexy lion costume anymore! Also, when I look back at my rookie season, the biggest thing I learned was don't pitch up in the zone, especially against the Yankees. No, but really, it's just experience I gained. I think you learn about getting thrown into some high-pressure situations and see how you react to them. And you say, "OK, I can do this." It just gives you that confidence. If you fail, you say, "OK, I've done this before. You know what to do the next time this happens." Just that experience you gain in your rookie year, you may not know how everything is going to play out, but either way, you're going to log some innings and face a lot of good hitters.
My curveball is something I've gained confidence in. I threw a lot with Victor toward the end of last year, which definitely didn't hurt. I experimented with a couple of different breaking balls and finally settled on one that was a slider in the mid-80s; whatever you want to call it, it's a breaking ball. I settled on that instead of trying to find one. That gives you some comfort rather than saying you've got to throw this big slow one or the harder cutter thing. It's easier when you've settled on one.
So what were the top things I did in the offseason? Well, I'd have to say getting married first. If I don't say that, I'll probably get in trouble at home. We got married in St. Simons Island, Ga. It was nice. For the honeymoon, we went down to Cabo, Mexico. That was a lot of fun. Probably my second favorite thing I did in the offseason was kill a lot of deer. I got a couple in South Carolina and one in Mississippi. But the first one I killed was at Lester's place in Georgia, actually. We saw Lester and his wife, Farrah, a few times and the Buchholtzes. Buchholtz was like me and just got married, too. I also stayed in touch with Manny [Delcarmen]. We texted back and forth a little bit.”
What can I tell you about the expectations for the team? Well, I guess I could say the obvious answer of being the last team standing at the end of the year. I think everyone knows that. But, I think it's a realistic goal with this team. We have a lot of talent. They went out and did a great job of signing some really talented guys. From the looks of it, they're going to fit in really well with this team. I think it's a feasible goal. I'm on board to do whatever it takes for me to help that happen. I've tried to meet all my new teammates, at least the ones who are here anyway. A couple of the position players still got to roll in. Seem like great guys, and we've made some good additions to the clubhouse.
OK, me saying I want to be the closer … let's get into that. It was definitely blown out of proportion, I think. It was one question asked during interviews. The question was, "Do you want to be a closer someday?" I gave an honest answer that I do. It probably looked like I'm looking too far into the future, which I'm not. I just tried to answer the question truthfully. The truth is, I'm focused right now on getting the ball to Pap. Whatever that means, throwing the sixth, seventh, eighth inning, that's my job right now and that's what I'm going to try to be the best at. Pap hasn't said anything to me about all that. I hope he didn't read it. Nothing against him; they asked what my goals are in baseball, and that's it. But right now, I'm focused on this year. That's one thing you learn in baseball is to not look too far ahead. Tomorrow is never guaranteed.
I'll talk to you guys next month once we start playing some spring training games!