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Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Time weighs heavily on Bard

By Gordon Edes

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- This business of transitioning from reliever to starter is just as confounding as Daniel Bard thought it would be, and it started from the time he arrived at the ballpark Tuesday.

“A totally different feeling -- I haven’t had it in years,’’ he said. “Just like getting to the park three hours before the game and having nothing to do for two hours is really weird. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s something you’ve got to get used to.’’

Daniel Bard
Daniel Bard said getting ready for his start Tuesday was a "totally different feeling."
So what does a Red Sox starting pitcher do to pass the time?

“Every guy has their own thing,’’ Bard said after pitching two scoreless innings in his first exhibition start Tuesday against the Baltimore Orioles.

‘’[John] Lackey walks around with no pants on and bounces a baseball and eats peanut butter and jelly. Jon Lester got his headphones on but still is kind of walking around, talking to guys. Everyone’s got their own thing. Curt Schilling was a guy nobody could talk to until the last pitch was thrown.’’

Bard was in his first year of pro ball when Schilling came down to throw a “B” game in minor-league camp. Schilling was only facing a Class A team, but had his usual intensity. Someone had the idea it might be constructive for Bard to meet the Big Schill and talk pitching.

“It happened to be about 20 minutes before his start,’’ Bard said. “He wasn’t too talkative. They made him do it. I felt kind of bad I didn’t have any good questions.’’

So with such a smorgasbord of examples to choose from, how did Bard fill the time before his start?

“I pretty much went up to everyone and asked what am I supposed to be doing,’’ Bard said, smiling. “It was kind of a running joke the day before.’’

Funny how much easier Bard’s day became after he took the mound. The Orioles managed one base-runner, on a walk. He did not allow a hit, struck out a couple, and threw two-thirds of his pitches (21 of 31) for strikes. He appeared to throw as effortlessly from a windup as he did out of the stretch.

“It felt good, man,’’ he said. “I felt I could have kept going, to be honest. Hopefully stays that way until I get up to 80, 100 pitches. It was a good first day of work, and nice to have good results.’’

Still, given that he hasn’t done this before in the big leagues, shouldn’t that temper expectations of how he will fare this season as a starter?

“I really don’t think it should,’’ he said. “I’m not going to guarantee any great success, but I’m not going to rule it out, either. I can tell you that in my mind, I can’t see any reason why I can’t go out and be as good as anybody on this staff, and we have some really good pitchers. I’m not going to put any caps on what my expectations are.’’

But surely there must be a few anxiety-inducing moments.

“Nothing worries me,’’ he said. “There are unknowns, but I don’t lose sleep over them. I think nobody knows how I’m going to respond, how I’m going to face a lineup a third time in a game, but to me that’s exciting. I’m looking forward to it as a personal challenge. I’m not scared of it. I’m excited about it.’’

Manager Bobby Valentine expressed satisfaction with Bard's outing, though he noted that the Orioles left their "A" team at home.

"That being said, Daniel's four-seamer was good, his two-seamer was good, he threw four sliders, they all did what he wanted them to do. He looked very comfortable on the mound, comfortable in the windup, got in the stretch, he was OK, and felt good afterwards.''

Valentine, told of Bard's pregame quandary, said that all kidding aside, establishing a routine is important for a starting pitcher. Lackey's probably isn't the one he should adopt, however.

"Not a recommended routine,'' he said, "and not a pretty sight, in my opinion.''