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Saturday, May 19, 2012
Jim Kaat's take on Daniel Bard

By Gordon Edes

Interesting observations made on Daniel Bard by former big leaguer Jim Kaat, who served as analyst Friday night for the MLB Network on its telecast of Friday night's game:

"He is evolving and learning to be a starter, and [he has] the two-strike dilemma," Kaat said, his remarks passed along by MLB Network publicist Tim Shanahan. "There's a knack to finding out what your go-to pitch is when you get a hitter [with] two strikes. He's got a fastball, a curve, a change, a much better changeup than people thought he'd have. It's a pretty good one. But, he hasn't developed that knack yet of what pitch to go to on two strikes. As a result, [he pitches in] a lot of deep counts."

Bard walked three batters in the first inning, when he was touched for four runs, and lamented afterward that he made a mistake throwing a full-count slider to Jimmy Rollins for a leadoff walk. Bard walked five in all, drawing the ire of manager Bobby Valentine after the game.

"The walks, they aren't acceptable," Valentine said of Bard, who has walked four or more in each of his last three starts for a total of 13 in 18 innings. "That amount of walks, you can't leave your team out there, and you can't keep letting those guys on base. He's tough to hit in the strike zone. Might as well throw it in there."

Kaat sounded bullish on Bard's future as a starter.

"Now that he's settled down a little, he's the kind of pitcher [where] you'd almost start the game and not even give him signs," Kaat said. "Just say, 'Throw me your best fastball. See if we can get a few outs here and establish the control of that.' Then go to the other stuff because that breaking ball, and lack of control of his pitches, is what cost him those four runs in the first."

A major-league talent evaluator called it all part of the transition process from reliever to starter. "You've got to be patient if you're going to be all in on it," he said. "If not, you've got to pull the plug."

• Valentine, by the way, said that Gary Darling's gum struck the manager in the eye after it flew out of the umpire's mouth during their Friday night confrontation. Valentine said that was a first.