Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard continues with his season long ESPNBoston.com diary. This time, he gives his take on Manny Ramirez' apology; How he gets a mental edge on a hitter; Why he would want to be a starter and how Fantasy Football has swept the Red Sox clubhouse. (as told to Louise K. Cornetta)
Until we're mathematically eliminated I say they're all big series. We have the Rays this week. I know we're behind them in the standings (7 ½ game heading into Monday), but all it takes is a hot stretch. I know it's not likely and it's not probable mathematically, but baseball is a weird game. We're going to keep playing. This team hasn't given up all year. We should be twenty games back with all the injuries we've had. We've fought to stay where we're at. It doesn't look great, but speaking for the players, I know we haven't given up at all on the season.
I was sad to see Manny [Delcarmen] get traded to Colorado. He was great to have out in the bullpen because he was upbeat. He kept everyone happy out there. He was an easygoing guy. A great guy to be around every day. He never really gets too annoying like some guys tend too. He put you in a good mood every day. He was a mediator between everyone, which is a great guy to have around. I don't know about him speaking Japanese and really, I don't even know how good his Spanish really was, but he sounded good speaking it. He was a mediator between everyone, especially for the other Latin guys on the team. He's going to be missed and was a really good friend of mine on this team. I wish him the best in Colorado.
The other Manny [Ramirez] was around this weekend. He made some apologies. I don't know all the details about that, but my thinking is I guess it's a good thing just maybe a little late. I think he probably didn't like getting booed as he did when he came back here last time in June. He was probably hoping for a different reaction this time.
I wanted to say something about one of our pitchers Clay Buchholz. You have to think of him as a Cy Young candidate. The numbers don't lie. He’s tops in ERA and in wins he's up there close to the leaders. His quality starts have been unbelievable. You know what you're getting from him. You're going to get six, seven, sometimes eight innings of probably one run baseball. You can't ask for much more out of a starter. To count his rough outings, I can't even think of one this year. Not one where he didn't even give us a chance to win. I'm sure there has been one but they've just been so few and far between because he's been Mr. Reliable for us.
I used to be a starter. I don't really miss it. I would be willing to try it again for a change of scenery and a new challenge. Maybe next year or down the road, but right now we don't need any starters. It's not an issue. I like where I'm at. I like relieving. I like the adrenaline at the end of the game. As far as I know, I'm there for good. I know starters make a good living, but they pay pretty well for the end of the game too. I'm not too worried about it.
Obviously a starter throws a lot more pitches than the bullpen, but for me, I can report I'm no longer leading the league in innings [by a reliever]. I got consecutive five days off between outings right after the All-Star break. I don't think that was totally on purpose. I just think there weren’t a whole lot of eighth inning hold opportunities. So they kept me out. I think that was kind of planned by the coaching staff and front office because it doesn't look good to run a guy out there that much, especially a guy like me that is early in his career. It is what it is, but I'm ready to pitch every day. When the phone rings, if they call my name, I'm ready to go. I feel good right now. I think the rest helped me physically. I feel pretty fresh given the time of year. And I should comment that it was nice I became the Red Sox’s single-season record for holds. But I'll be honest, it doesn't mean a whole lot to me. It's a hold. To me, the season is still going on, if anything comes at the end of the season, I'll appreciate it then.
Let's get into some of the situations I come across as a reliever. If you want to know if there is a difference pitching one inning versus two, for me, I try not to think much about it. You're still going out there trying to get outs. Usually when I go two, I don't know I'm going two. I'm prepared for one. I come back to the dugout and they say, "Hey, you're still in there. Keep going." You don't think much of it. You just go back out there and do it. I think for me, being a short reliever, I hate to say it, but the fatigue probably sets in at 25 pitches or so. The velocity is probably the same, you maybe start to lose a little arm slot because every pitch is so max effort in those one, two run tie games in the eighth and ninth innings. You're putting everything into every pitch. I'm not saving myself for a ninety pitch outing like a starter might do. So you kind of start to hit that wall around 25 pitches. If I can get through two in 25 or less, I'm usually fine.
When I come into a bases loaded situation like I did last month in New York and get out [Derek] Jeter and Swish [Nick Swisher], that's the type of situation with so much on the line that I'm not thinking about anything else. It may sound cliché, but I don't hear the crowd. I don't see anything but the hitter and the catcher and that's all I'm thinking about. To me there is so much adrenaline that I've learned to use it to make me more focused rather than scatter-brained out there. Honestly, with so much adrenaline and I have such a specific task at-hand it's easy for me to focus. I have no choice but to focus on the hitter. Those are fun situations to pitch in.
You have to feel confident when you take the mound -- like no one is going to get a run off of you. I think you have to feel that way in this role or the closing role or anything like it. You have to feel like you're invincible out there. You're not going to be. You're going to give up a few runs here and there. If you portray that sense of confidence and invincibility where you feel unhittable, then hitters will see that. Hitters will see that confidence in your body language. To me, that's a big part of pitching that gets overlooked. I think [Roy] Halladay is a great example. He always looks like he's in control of the game. If he's frustrated, it's because he missed the outside corner by an inch and a-half. Nothing really phases him. He always looks like he knows he's gong to get the next hitter out regardless of who's on base and what the situation is. I try to incorporate that and take that to my game.
What else can I tell you about pitching situations? The climate can be a factor. I don't like it really hot. I grew up pitching in the heat of North Carolina. I've adjusted to the colder climates well. I actually like pitching in the cold. I think pitchers actually have an advantage. You can adjust to the heat for a series here or there, but I prefer it 65 or below. Once you start getting drenched in sweat, it's hard to grip the ball.
When we were in Tampa, I said that the bullpen can't win games, we can only lose them. Let me clarify what I meant. The bullpen can play a huge part in games that are won, but no one says if we go out and throw two or three scoreless at the end of the game, "Okay, the bullpen won this game for us." The starting pitcher gets the win. The hitters who hit the home runs and got the RBIs contributed to the win. The bullpen just saved the win. We just didn't screw up. We can only get a loss, we can't get a win in that situation if we're handed a lead. I think my point was more if any focus is given to a bullpen, it's usually negative.
Another thing about relieving is the strike zone. You'd be surprised that we're not paying a whole lot of attention to it during the game from the bullpen. Not at all. I mean, if one of our starters is constantly not getting calls, I'll take notice. To me, there is so little difference between all the umps, that if I try and go out there and pitch to a certain umpire's strike zone, I'm way over thinking. My game is to keep things simple.
If you're at a game, listen for the music I come into pitch with. It's Strangle Hold by Ted Nugent. No reason, but I've used it for three years now going back to the minor leagues. I just like it. You need your entry music to be something that gets you pumped up but not too distracted. It's a great song.
Football is starting. We had our Red Sox fantasy draft recently. I was involved because I took [Mike] Cameron's spot because he wasn't on the trip since he had surgery. I was actually on the phone with him doing his draft for him. At first I thought I was just going to be relaying the picks, but I ended up being a co-manager with him. I think I'm on the payroll too, if he happens to win. We took Frank Gore with our first pick. We haven't named our team yet. We'll wait until Week 1 to do that. I think we put together a pretty good team, though it's hard to say now. It's kind of a crapshoot with fantasy football. Pap [Jonathan Papelbon] was definitely the most into it. He sets it up and he'll talk about it the most until this season's over. He kind of lives for that kind of stuff.