Boston Red Sox: Daniel Bard
Bard faced 18 batters for Class A Hickory, recording just two outs while allowing 13 runs, walking nine batters and hitting seven.
Bard was one of the most dominant relievers in the majors from 2009 to 2011, serving as the setup man for then-Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. Boston moved him to the rotation in 2012, an experiment that ultimately failed. He was moved back to relief but continued to struggle with diminished velocity, control problems and later an abdominal strain, and the Sox placed him on waivers in September 2013. He was claimed by the Cubs, but they non-tendered him in December.
Diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, Bard underwent surgery in January to correct a nerve issue. Now he's facing another uphill battle to find a team willing to give him a chance to resurrect his career.
"Not surprised that the Cubs would claim him, given the familiarity with Theo and Jed, who drafted him here," Red Sox manager John Farrell said Wednesday afternoon. "And I guess the most important thing is we wish him well and hope he gets back on track. There’s still a good pitcher in there once he gets back on track."
Bard has not been the same pitcher since he was converted to become a starter in 2012 after making 192 relief appearances for the Red Sox, including a two-year stretch (2010-11) when he was one of the most dominant setup men in the American League. In 2011, he set a club record for most consecutive scoreless outings with 25, three more than Koji Uehara’s current streak.
No Sox pitcher had ever made as many relief appearances before making his first start, but Bard was excited about the transition for the 2012 season, one that was endorsed by GM Ben Cherington and the baseball operations staff looking to upgrade the Red Sox rotation with a young power arm. Incoming manager Bobby Valentine expressed reservations about the move, at least privately, but Bard made the rotation coming out of camp, winning the fifth spot in the rotation.
The experiment was not an immediate disaster; he made 10 turns in the rotation and had a 4-6 record with a 5.30 ERA in those starts when he was demoted to the minors on June 5. That wasn’t even the highest ERA on the staff; Clay Buchholz had a 6.58 ERA at the time.
But there were warning signs. Bard made four starts with two walks or fewer, but walked at least four in the other six starts, including six free passes in just 1 2/3 innings in his last start, June 3 in Toronto. His velocity also was down noticeably, which showed up in two ways: His K’s per 9 IP was 5.56, well below the 9.1 per 9 he had in 2011, and he gave up a career-high nine home runs in just 59 1/3 innings.
Things went from bad to worse in Triple-A Pawtucket, where he was returned to the bullpen but became even more erratic, posting a 7.03 ERA in 31 appearances, while walking 29 and giving up 31 hits in 32 innings.
But the velocity remained 5 or 6 miles per hour lower than when he was at his best, and the Sox sent Bard to Double-A Portland because, they said, he had options remaining. They also they wanted him to focus less on results, which might have been the case the previous season in Pawtucket, and more on refining his mechanics.
Instead, Bard regressed, giving up 17 hits and walking 13 in just 12 2/3 innings in Portland before being shut down on May 15. He subsequently discovered an abdominal muscle tear, and when he returned to the mound it was in late August in Fort Myers with Boston’s rookie league entry. He pitched a scoreless inning in his first outing, but his second outing was a disaster, five walks and two wild pitches in two-thirds of an inning. He asked the Sox for the chance to continue, which they gave him during the short-season at Lowell, where he walked four and threw a wild pitch on Aug. 31.
That would be Bard's last performance in the Sox organization. Cherington designated him for assignment on Sept. 3, and the Cubs put in their waiver claim Wednesday.
Bard is still only 28, and bounced back from a similarly rough experience in his first year in pro ball, when he averaged better than a walk an inning (78 walks in 75 innings). The Sox clearly made a decision that they did not see Bard being a useful pitcher going forward, otherwise they would have found another means to clear a spot on their 40-man roster.
Can Bard ever be an effective pitcher again?
"I’m not going to say that he can’t," Farrell said. "There’s still a player and a pitcher there that’s motivated. And yet any time there’s activity disrupted by an injury, it’s going to slow that process. Time was of the essence to us; we needed a roster spot. Based on what we saw the last couple of years, it needs to be built back gradually, and however long that takes is the unknown in this."
After being farmed out, Bard pitched just 6 1/3 innings and threw 10 wild pitches with 23 walks among three stops: Double-A Portland and recently the Gulf Coast League and short-season Lowell.
Meanwhile, Boston added newly acquired veteran infielder John McDonald and outfielder Quintin Berry to the roster. Along with Bard, the club also placed right-hander Alex Wilson on the 60-day disabled list.
Red Sox manager John Farrell, who was once Bard's pitching coach, said it was a difficult decision to designate Bard.
"Not an easy one," Farrell said. "Given what he's been able to do in the past and obviously dealing with the struggles with consistency that are there, unfortunately he's in the position he's in. He won't be able to pitch with [Class A] Lowell until the waiver period expires, and if he's still in the organization, which we would hope that would be the case unless some team either claims or works out a trade for him, we haven't turned our back on him.
"And yet, we needed a roster spot and we're hopeful that we can get Daniel back on track to the pitcher that he was here at the big league level, which was a dominant one."
Bard made his major league debut with the Red Sox in May 2009 and quickly established himself as an effective eighth-inning setup man for then-closer Jonathan Papelbon. They were a dominant 1-2 punch.
"The weapon that he emerged as, and the way Tito [Francona, former manager] had the flexibility of using him in that seventh or eighth inning, in many ways he had the tougher inning more so than the closer many, many nights. To have that kind of power and that kind of ease in which he threw and the breaking ball that he had in addition to 98-101 [speed on his fastball] or whatever it was, for two years he was as good as there was in the game."
Bard set new club single-season records for holds in both 2010 and 2011 with 32 and 34, respectively. In fact, his 79 career holds from 2009-2011 were the most ever by a major leaguer in his first 192 appearances.
Prior to the 2012 season, the Red Sox, in concert with Bard, decided to convert him into a starter, but the experiment failed. He was 4-6 with a 5.30 ERA in 10 starts. He spent the months of July and August in the minors and returned to Boston in September as a reliever.
With Farrell back in Boston as manager this season, the thought was he and Bard would be able to solve the pitcher's issues.
"There was a combination of delivery issues that were being ironed out, and certainly confidence issues," Farrell said. "That's where the question was, which comes first? We felt like performance was going to lead to confidence. I thought in spring training there was some outings that were not far off from where he was previous, whether it was a year or two prior, and felt like, as he was building momentum in spring training, felt like there was still one step yet left to make with him, in terms of just the power and the consistency to it. It looked like he was on his way and unfortunately it didn't happen."
Farrell said he has not spoken with Bard since the decision was made. "I'm sure he's disappointed," the manager said.
Red Sox players, specifically members of the pitching staff, hope Bard remains in the organization and can regain his form.
"Obviously it's tough," starter Jon Lester said. "Kind of makes you really appreciate what we're able to do. That could be any of us at any time to struggle with something like that. Not only is he like a fellow teammate, he's one of my good friends and it's tough to see. Hopefully, with a good offseason, he can get healthy and get back to being himself."
At the start of spring training, Bard was back in the bullpen and feeling good about himself. Lester even noticed a change for the better. But it didn't last.
"He was one of the most dominant relievers for three years that a lot of us have ever seen," Lester said. "It's there. Hopefully he can get back to that and back to believing in what he can do. Obviously we'd love to see him, not only back here, but just getting back to being Daniel Bard."
Farrell said Bard told him he’d like to pitch at least a couple of more times, even after a disastrous outing Thursday in the season finale in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, in which he walked five batters in two-thirds of an inning and wild-pitched home two runs.
"He wants a couple of more appearances and we can provide those to him, give him an opportunity and see where it might go," Farrell said. "The potential of that being in Lowell is a real potential. Daniel has not closed the book on this season, I think that’s the first and foremost thing."
-- Mike Carp, who was scratched from an infrequent start Thursday, reported his shoulder felt "great" Friday before batting practice, but with a lefty (Hector Santiago) going for the White Sox, he was back on the bench. Mike Napoli played first and Jonny Gomes was in left.
-- Jake Peavy, who will be facing his former White Sox teammates Saturday, told a cluster of mostly Chicago-area reporters that he never wanted to leave Chicago and loved his time there.
"That being said," he continued, "I couldn’t be any more excited being right here, right now. I couldn’t walk into a better situation with a better bunch of guys who are a lot like me, on and off the field."
Peavy joked he was concerned that White Sox strongman Adam Dunn will come to the plate batting right-handed instead of left-handed.
Pitching at the lowest rung of the Sox minor league system, Bard walked five batters, two of whom scored on wild pitches, in two-thirds of an inning Thursday.
Sox manager John Farrell had not been informed of Thursday’s outing when he was asked about Bard near the end of his pregame media session.
“The last report I saw with the inning that he pitched, velocity isn’t where it was when he was here for a brief time in spring training,’’ Farrell said. “The fact that he’s on the mound is one step. The power that needs to come from just being inactive, the consistency to execution, that’s still a work in progress right now.”
Bard has not been the same pitcher since last year’s ill-fated decision to convert him to a starter, an experiment he endorsed and for which a good case could be made. That experiment lasted 10 starts before Bard was demoted to Pawtucket, and returning to a relief role for the PawSox did not have the desired effect, as he posted a 7.03 ERA and walked nearly a batter an inning (29 walks in 32 innings).
Bard struggled again in spring training, when he was unable to regain the velocity that had made him one of baseball’s foremost setup men, and began the year in Double-A Portland.
He was recalled to Boston and made two appearances, the first a scoreless inning. In the second, he walked the only two batters he faced on nine pitches and was lifted. He returned to Portland and was shut down after walking five in his last appearance for the Sea Dogs on May 15.
At the time, the Sox explained they were shutting down Bard to give him time to work on his mechanics. Only afterward was there any mention of an abdominal strain, and Bard was sent to Fort Myers. The hoped-for goal?
“For the majority of the time that he was down, it was kind of open ended,’’ Farrell said Thursday. “One, we didn’t know when he would get back to throwing bullpens. Two, we didn’t know if he’d get back in games. From this point forward, how much time remains or opportunities exist to gain some consistency, to gain some confidence more than anything. Did he become another option for us? Right now, that’s still in question.”
That question appears to have been answered Thursday.
"You know, I've always kind of felt like there's no such thing as a prospect in Triple-A," Cherington said. "Once you get to Triple-A, you're either ready to help the big league team or you're not. And us, we're finding out about the guys at Triple-A now, who's ready and who isn't.
"We felt like Xander had done enough in Double-A to warrant a promotion. He spent some time there last year and went back this year and really improved in areas he needed to. He certainly improved in strike zone management this year. He's played a consistent shortstop. We know he's a threat with the bat. We just felt like it was time for him to face Triple-A pitching, guys that do different things.
"So he'll get some at bats there, we'll see where we are. Once you get to Triple-A it's sort of an extension of the big league team and you're no longer a prospect. You're either at Triple-A or ready to help us in the big leagues."
* Cherington said the Sox have yet to revisit talks with Dustin Pedroia regarding a long-term contract extension, but indicated that it ranks high on the team's to-do list at the right time. Cherington broached the subject with Pedroia's agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, last winter.
"As you know, I'm not going to comment on any contract issue with a player," he said. "Speaking generally about Dustin, he's certainly a guy we think very highly of, and he's a huge part of the organization, not just this team. He represents a lot of what we're all about.
"It's our sincere hope he's here for a long time, that's all I can say. We've got a good enough relationship with Dustin and his representatives that those conversations will happen over time. At the right time, we'll just have to see down the road what comes of it.
"He's a very valuable player. He shows up every day in all sorts of ways. We're very lucky he's on our side. There's nothing going on right now. The relationships are good enough, I think everyone understands what's at stake and there will be a time to have the conversations again and see where they go. We have great respect for him."
* On rotating three players -- Stephen Drew, Will Middlebrooks, and Jose Iglesias -- between short and third:
"John is trying to put all three guys in the best position to succeed. We believe in all three of them. We think we're a better team with all three of them.
"It's still early enough in the season that's the right course for us. Obviously, it's a bit of a challenge for the players. It's easier to show up at the ballpark every day knowing you're in the lineup, and that's not the case right now. We'll do best we can communicating with them every day. We need all three to be good, to be the best they can be."
* On the race in the American League East:
"You know, the division's not really that different than everyone thought it would be. It's a jumble and I don't think anyone knew exactly what the order was going to be. But it's very competitive, we knew it was going to be competitive. And I still think the teams that end up on top are going to be the ones that stay the healthiest, get the best starting pitching and make the best in-season adjustments. So we're going to try to do that and time will tell."
* On how surprised he is that Mike Napoli's hip condition has not surfaced to date, and what the implications of that might be going forward:
"We're certainly pleased by it," he said. "Once he got into spring training, he looked so good physically, he really didn't have any issues. Keep in mind, it wasn't a symptom-based issue before; it was something we found on an MRI. Nobody, including Mike, really knew what it meant, and we had to get him here to find out.
"From the first day of spring training he has not missed any time. He's been available. He's played a lot. He's been out of the lineup, but it hasn't been because of the hip. So he's proven he can play a lot, so sure, that's information we didn't have in the offseason. Again, we're mostly really focused on let's play the games, win as many as we can, and we'll pick up the conversation [on the future] after the season."
* Cherington also said that Daniel Bard may be back pitching for Double-A Portland within a week or so.
While Red Sox manager John Farrell said outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is continuing to improve and the club is "shooting” for him to return Tuesday against Texas, the injury news was not as encouraging for Shane Victorino.
The Flying Hawaiian remains the Grounded Hawaiian, as Farrell said that the club is delaying sending him out on a rehab assignment after watching him run here Sunday afternoon.
"He's not running at 100 percent yet," Farrell said. "The one thing we're being cautious with here is that based on experience having him come back and play successive games, he's had a couple of setbacks prior to going on the disabled list. We want to make sure there's a gradual improvement, which he's showing, but to say he's going on a rehab assignment tomorrow or the next day is probably premature at this point. So, we're just being a little overly cautious given what's transpired."
Victorino is eligible to be activated Wednesday, but that has all been ruled out by the Sox. Counting Sunday, he has started just 33 of the team's first 58 games, missing time with a lower back issue (that did not put him on the DL) and a strained hamstring. The Sox suspect the two issues may be related.
Farrell insists Victorino has not reaggravated the hamstring. "It's just when he tries to get to that explosiveness, he doesn't have quite the confidence," Farrell said, "and we're honestly telling him to more gradually get into it. The one thing we don't want to do is turn this thing into an extended period. If it takes a couple more days than the June 5th activation date, we're certainly willing to do whatever it takes to get by that. What we don't want is for that to be a drop-dead date, he comes back, and reaggravates it."
* Ellsbury ranks second in the AL in the percentage of pitches with which he makes contact. He's at 90 percent. Jeff Keppinger of the White Sox is first at 91 percent.
* Dustin Pedroia is baseball's best hitter with two strikes, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Forty-one of Pedroia's 74 hits have come with two strikes, and he is batting .331 after two strikes (41-for-124). His complete slash line after two strikjes is .331/.407/.452/.859.
Incredibly, Pedroia is batting .433 (13-for-30) on 0-and-2 counts.
The league average after two strikes is .186. On 0-and-2 counts, it's .165.
* It has now been more than two full weeks since reliever Daniel Bard appeared in a game for Double-A Portland. He has been limited to side work since May 15, when he walked five in an inning of work. Bard remains on Portland's active roster, Farrell said, but the Sox are clearly focused on making this a long-term reclamation project.
In his last 10 appearances with Portland this season, Bard had walked 16 and given up 10 hits in 9 2/3 innings.
Tuesday afternoon in Pawtucket, the 23-year-old Iglesias played his first-ever game at third base, which improbably could be his ticket back to the big leagues.
No, the Sox are not planning to convert Iglesias to third baseman. If they do so with any of their shortstop prospects, it would be Xander Bogaerts, who has the build and power to play a corner position. But as Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reported on Monday, the PawSox began having Iglesias taking groundballs at second -- a position he told reporters he has played in Cuba -- and at third, an entirely new position for him.
The idea, Red Sox manager John Farrell said here Tuesday, is to increase Iglesias' versatility in the event they need to call up a backup infielder. Earlier this season, when there was some question as to whether third baseman Will Middlebrooks would be able to play with sore ribs, infielder Brock Holt was on standby in case the Sox needed to summon another player.
"Not unlike other guys that have come to the big leagues, Jed Lowrie, for example, is another guy we exposed to multiple positions, we're looking to do the same with Jose right now," Farrell said. "In the event something happens to someone, prepare the best we can if he comes to us in a role we might call on his versatility.
"We know he can play shortstop. If we get him consecutive days, multiple days at second or third [we'll do so]," he said.
The Red Sox have a veteran infielder who can play second, third and short in Drew Sutton, but he was on the disabled list earlier this month with Pawtucket after straining a muscle in his side. Iglesias would give them another option.
Iglesias made an error at third Tuesday. He also singled and walked after hitting a home run on Monday.
He is batting .209 overall.
* Daniel Bard is throwing only side sessions for Double-A Portland for the time being, Farrell said. No time has been set for him to return to game action, but he remains on the active roster.
* David Ross, who continues his recovery from concussive symptoms, will be sent on a brief rehab assignment before the end of the week, Farrell said.
* Shane Victorino remains day to day with a left hamstring strain. The Sox are holding off on any move to the DL.
"The brain is a strange muscle."
Blass' name came up during a discussion of Daniel Bard, the Red Sox reliever whose control issues have reached alarming proportions since he was returned to Double-A Portland after a cameo appearance with the Red Sox last month, when he made two appearances against the Houston Astros. He was lifted in the second one after walking the only two batters he faced.
On Wednesday night, Bard walked five batters, threw two wild pitches and threw strikes on just 8 of 30 pitches. He has made five appearances since his return to Portland, walking 13 batters in 3 2/3 innings.
Obviously, the Sox are worried, although not yet to the point that they are considering shutting him down or perhaps sending him to extended spring training in Fort Myers. For now, manager John Farrell said, he will continue working with Bob Kipper, the Portland pitching coach who was with him back in 2007, when Bard was able to make a drastic correction to the wildness problems that plagued him in his first year in professional baseball, when he averaged more than a walk an inning (78 walks, 75 innings) at the Class A level.
"Given what's transpired, not just in the last couple of outings but over a period of time, there's some concern there," Farrell said. "Any time you go out and you're throwing 25 percent strikes, that's a tough way to go.
"I know this is something that Daniel's working through, he's fighting through. We're there to give him the best feedback that we can and encourage him along the way. He's going through a pretty tough stretch right now."
When asked about shutting Bard down, Farrell said the team has yet to determine what is the best way to proceed.
"We haven't gotten to the point [of pursuing other action] yet. Each outing is discussed internally but it's more about continuing to address the needs of Daniel and trying to provide him that help as best we can. We haven't gotten to the point of any drastic measures one way or the other."
Bard is meeting with Sox mental skills coach Bob Tewksbury, who coincidentally was one of the best control artists in the game when he pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Farrell noted that in spring training, Bard strung together several consecutive outings that gave him a "legitimate shot to make this club." There has been obvious regression since then, which Farrell contended can't be blamed on his demotion following his April stint with Boston.
"We've got to get to the point of Daniel being very candid and honest with himself, and not be deflecting some of the things that he might be feeling," Farrell said. "Just be as bluntly honest as we can.
"This is something that you can't run from. We haven't gotten to that point of just taking the ball out of his hand. I don't think we're of the mindset that things are going to just turn for the sake of turning. You're looking to do something, you're looking to be proactive, address something with getting involved in a situation like this, and we continue to do so. I'm sure no one is more frustrated than Daniel is."
Blass was 30 years old and coming off one of the best seasons of his career in 1972, when he went 19-8 with a 2.49 ERA for the Pirates, walking just 84 batters in 249 2/3 innings. He also beat the Cincinnati Reds in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series that season.
The following year, 1973, Blass went 3-9 with a 9.85 ERA and walked the same number of batters (84) in 88 2/3 innings that he had the year before. He also hit a league-leading dozen batters.
He pitched just five innings for the Pirates in 1974 before ending his career.
Bard is only two seasons removed from being one of the best setup men in the game. The Red Sox abandoned their experiment to convert him to a starter after he walked six batters in 1 2/3 innings against Toronto, shocking him with a demotion to Triple-A Pawtucket. He fared worse for the PawSox, posting a 7.03 ERA while walking 29 batters in 32 innings, before a late-season call-up to the Red Sox.
He pitched in six games, all lost by Boston, giving up nine runs on eight hits (three home runs) and six walks in 4 1/3 innings.
A more recent example of a major leaguer who experienced a baffling loss of control was Rick Ankiel, who as a 20-year-old left-hander for the St. Louis Cardinals suffered his lapse during the NL playoffs, walking 11 batters in four innings. He made just six more starts for the Cards in 2001, missed the 2003 season after Tommy John surgery, briefly returned as a reliever in 2004, then converted full time to the outfield in 2005.
So goes the latest chapter for Bard, whose ride from shutdown reliever to wayward starter to bullpen hopeful may have cast some doubt on his immediate future. At least those in the clubhouse are not concerned.
"Nothing he can't fix too easily," said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who had to come out of his crouch to catch one of Bard's off-target deliveries.
Bard, whose 2012 experiment as a starter turned into a disaster that had a carry-over effect into his return to the bullpen, was showing some progress at Double-A Portland and had a scoreless outing against Houston on Friday in his return to Fenway Park.
However, he walked Ronny Cedeno on four pitches and then Carlos Pena on five before John Farrell came to get him. Bard, who always carries with him a calm demeanor, slammed his glove on his leg as he departed for the dugout. Farrell gave him a pat on the back and then was matter-of-fact in a postgame commentary.
"Right from the get-go Daniel didn't settle into a delivery," Farrell said. "We saw him cut a couple of fastballs on the first few pitches he threw and then some pitches got away from him."
Both Joel Hanrahan and Craig Breslow are close to returning to the bullpen from rehab stints, which makes Bard a candidate for more work in the minors in the very near future.
"He’s here to do just that, perform and be a regular in our bullpen," Farrell said before Wednesday afternoon’s game with the Oakland Athletics.
Bard was unscored upon in his last five outings (six innings) for the Sea Dogs, maintaining an average speed in the 93 to 96 m.p.h. range and throwing strikes (8 of 10 pitches he threw Tuesday night were strikes).
"The last three outings, he’s been much more consistent," Farrell said. "We’ve made the comment and took the stance in spring training that this was about repeating his delivery. It wasn’t so much on the end result, but the results have been there, along with the consistent arm slot and the delivery. With our need to add to the bullpen, he’s back here."
While there is more work to be done, Farrell said, Bard has progressed to the point where no major rehaul is required.
“I think it’s a matter of maintenance, not wholesale adjustments by any means," Farrell said. “It’s a matter of repeating a delivery that’s natural to him, and when he does he’s been successful."
Farrell said the plan is to use Bard in early relief situations.
“I feel like with Taz [Junichi Tazawa], Koji [Uehara} and Andrew [Bailey], that’s the back end of our bullpen right now," he said, “so right now it’s a matter of him getting back acclimated to this level and building some confidence along the way."
There has not been a jump in Bard’s velocity since spring training. The Sox have not see the Bard who threw in the upper 90s as recently as 2011.
“That doesn’t mean he has to get to that level to be successful," Farrell said. “It’s been in the 93-to-96 range. I think a lot of guys would sign up to throw that hard.
“If you look back to Daniel’s time in Boston before starting, when he was in this velocity range there wasn’t a lot of swing-and-miss then, either. It was in the upper end of the 90 range where a lot of the swing-and-miss came in, where guys had to cheat to get to that velocity and the breaking ball became that much more effective.
“I think we’re looking for a delivery that’s got a reworking to it to add deception. Regardless, we’ve seen it with Joel Hanrahan, too. Location is still the No. 1 element for anyone."
Bard takes the place of Steven Wright on the Sox roster. Wright was optioned back to Pawtucket after making his big-league debut Tuesday night, allowing five runs in Boston’s 13-0 loss to Oakland.
But that day of return and possible redemption has arrived. According to the Portland Press-Herald, Bard was told by Sea Dogs manager Kevin Boles that he will be returning to the Red Sox on Wednesday.
To make room for Bard on the roster, the Sox optioned knuckleballer Steven Wright back to Pawtucket. Wright made his major-league debut in Tuesday night’s 13-0 loss to Oakland, eating up 3 2/3 innings in a game that was out of hand (8-0) when he entered. He was charged with 5 runs on 6 hits and 4 walks.
Bard has spent the better part of three weeks working with Portland pitching coach Bob Kipper.
“Just been simplifying everything,” Bard told the Press-Herald. “I think I’ve made some good strides through spring training, and this was a chance to build on what we did.
“There was no better guy to do it with than Kip. He’s got a simple message. He preaches a simple delivery and a simple approach. It’s what I’ve been successful with in the past and it’s what I got locked into here the last few weeks.”
Bard started out shakily in Portland, allowing four runs on three hits and a walk over his first three appearances. But he has been unscored upon in his last five outings, spanning six innings, walking three and striking out three.
He pitched a scoreless inning Tuesday night, throwing 8 of his 10 pitches for strikes.
The Bard move means the right-hander will not start the season with the big club (no shock there) and likely means Clayton Mortensen will be awarded the final spot in the Red Sox bullpen. In eight Grapefruit League appearances this spring, Bard has a 6.75 ERA and has surrendered nine hits, walked four and struck out 10 in eight total innings.
Drew, who has been taking batting practice, would be eligible to come off the list in time for the second game of the season, April 3 in New York, but given that he has not played in a game since March 7, there’s little reason to believe he’ll be activated that soon.
“There’s still no timeline determined with games," said manager John Farrell, adding that Drew is expected to remain in Florida.
The Red Sox also optioned first baseman Mauro Gomez to Pawtucket.
The Sox still have until noon on Sunday to file their 25-man roster, so they’re under no obligation to do so in advance. And they have pending opt-out issues with two players, outfielders Ryan Sweeney and Mitch Maier, that factor into the equation. Maier, who has been out with a sprained wrist, just started hitting off a tee and hitting some soft toss.
Farrell also said that DH David Ortiz will accompany the team to New York to maintain the consistency of rehab work he is doing with coordinator of sports medicine service Dan Dyrek. Ortiz will return to Florida to get some at-bats, Farrell said, when he is ready to play in games. Ortiz was scheduled to take batting practice with his regular group before the game and also is increasing the volume of work he is doing in agility drills.
Lefthander Franklin Morales (back) and Craig Breslow (shoulder) are scheduled to throw off a mound Saturday and Monday, respectively.
As for a decision on whether rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. will break camp with the big club?
“Not yet," he said.
Setup: Andrew Bailey. Now healthy, Bailey has looked like the guy the Sox thought they traded for last winter when they gave up Josh Reddick. Nine punchouts, zero walks in 7 2/3 innings. He'll be used in lots of high-leverage situations.
Setup: Koji Uehara. The only question about Uehara is durability. Unscored upon in eight appearances. Great deception, which accents his high-80s fastball, terrific splitter, outstanding control (43 K's, 3 walks last season), will probably be used to complement Andrew Miller against lefties (.188 average against). He turns 38 on April 3, so Farrell will be careful, but if Uehara stays healthy, he'll rank as a great pickup by Ben Cherington.
Left-handed specialist: Andrew Miller. Twelve K's in 7 1/3 innings just reinforces the notion, widely shared by scouts, that Miller has finally found his niche in the big leagues after a real struggle early in his career. He has been keeping his fastball down in the zone and exhibited excellent bite on his slider. Miller, because of his past history of being erratic (not to mention being 6-foot-7), is one of these guys who makes hitters uncomfortable in the box, a good thing.
Setup/long man: Junichi Tazawa. Tazawa assured himself of seeing plenty of high-leverage innings with his eye-opening performance last season. He also has the kind of arm that can give Farrell multiple innings. See him as a sixth-seventh inning pitcher.
Long man: Alfredo Aceves. Again, I implore you to set aside the occasional shenanigans. Aceves is an important part of the Sox pitching staff. He gives the Sox much-needed depth in the rotation, and as long as he can be persuaded to be satisfied with his role, Farrell should be able to make this work. One scout who saw Aceves in Dunedin on Friday said he looked indifferent early, his velocity hovering around 87-88 mph with his fastball. But then it all clicked in. Aceves was spotting his cutter, curve and changeup on both sides of the plate, by the fifth inning his fastball was clocking 90-93 mph, and overall it was a virtuoso performance. When Farrell says Aceves can be as effective as he was in 2011, when he went 10-2 with a 2.61 ERA, made four starts and recorded two saves, he's not blowing smoke.
Franklin Morales and Craig Breslow starting the season on the disabled list and Bard still a work in progress, Mortensen is poised to seize an opportunity. His time may prove to be short, once the injured lefties come back, but with an ability to change speeds and a good changeup, Mortensen could be Scott Atchison-like, ultimately earning the chance to show what he can do in higher-leverage situations.
The bullpen has a chance to be a real strength of this ballclub. It offers power arms, depth, youth and experience.
Which brings us to Bard. His last two outings, including a stint in a minor league game Friday, did not go well, as Farrell acknowledged Saturday morning. Multiple scouts who have seen Bard said they do not see him being major league ready, and one said that the Sox should still be concerned whether he will ever regain the dominating form he showed in 2010 and 2011. His velocity topped out at 95 on Friday but generally sat at 92-93, still well below the high-90s velocity he regularly showed at his best.
"There's still work to be done," Farrell said.
Bard is scheduled to throw at least three more times here, including Saturday. What would Farrell like to see?
"Consistency," he said. "Consistency, not only repeating his delivery but that will lead to execution of location within the strike zone."
His take on Bard's velocity and whether it is increasing:
"It is going that way," Farrell said. "I don't think it's where it ultimately will end up, but it should continue to increase by virtue of repeating his delivery and gaining some confidence along the way. I think it's important to note that while he's had a couple of less than [effective] outings, the three previous were what we hoped to see.
"It's important to note Daniel is aware of this. This is no flipping of the switch. This is a step process he's making solid progress in."
Farrell said he would like to see Bard attack the first hitter more effectively, "rather than taking a hitter to get into the inning. That kind of lends to the consistency we're trying to find."
Given that he acknowledges there is work to be done, how tough a decision is it, really, on whether Bard begins the season with the big league team or in Pawtucket?
"The best way I can answer that is we haven't decided it," Farrell said.
Bard is still in camp competing for a bullpen spot, but he has an option left, allowing the Sox to send him to Pawtucket without exposing him to waivers. Given the depths to which he plummeted last season, the Sox are likely inclined to have him start in Pawtucket and experience some success there. That would allow them to get some value out of Clayton Mortensen, who is out of options.
"I think the nice thing, from my standpoint, of his spring is we haven't talked much about it, it doesn't seem like. He has been able to get in his work and get ready for his season. There have been definitely a few outings where he looked pretty close, and I think he's feeling gradually better about himself."
* Daniel Nava's spot on the rotation as a backup outfielder-first baseman seems assured, judging by Cherington's comments.
"He's done a good job," Cherington said. "He's had good at-bats, he's done well defensively. He seems more and more comfortable at first base, not that that would be a primary part of his role, but he has the ability to go there if needed."
* Cherington acknowledged that the fact Lyle Overbay is not on the roster and Mike Carp is could factor into which player is kept as a left-handed hitting first-base alternative to Mike Napoli. Overbay is one of three players -- the others being Mitch Maier and Ryan Sweeney -- who have opt-out options in their contract that come into play next week. It was reported here incorrectly Thursday morning that Drew Sutton also had an opt-out.
* Cherington's assessment of the way the starting rotation has performed this spring:
"They'd all tell you it's spring training, but a lot of encouraging things. There's clearly a purpose to the work. They're going out, taking certain things into the game, whether it be pace, aggressiveness within the strike zone, attention to detail -- for the most part, they've been paying attention to the running game. We saw [the work] early in camp and now they're taking it into games. The pitching overall has been pretty encouraging."
* On whether the team needed to add depth to the rotation:
"I guess you can't be deep enough. Our job is to look out for reinforcements, but we feel pretty good about some of options we have, in addition to the five guys [in the rotation]. [Alfredo Aceves] has been stretched out, he gives us another guy. The guys projected to start at Pawtucket, we feel better than we did last year at this time about our options.
"[Chris] Hernandez, [Terry] Doyle, [Allen] Webster... [Rubby] De La Rosa, we'll give some time to get his pitch count built up. There are a lot of guys coming after them. We feel hopefully we're a little further ahead than we have been."
* On Drake Britton, the Red Sox pitcher whose first big league camp was curtailed after he was arrested on multiple DUI charges and is now awaiting an April court date:
"I've had a number of conversations with Drake and gone over some things I'm not going to comment on. At this time we don't have reason to believe he's going to miss time. There's obviously a legal progression that needs to be worked out; we'll let that work itself out."
Britton could face up to a year's jail time on the most serious charge, a DUI with property damage.
"There's a protocol I'd rather not get into," Cherington said when asked if the team has a set protocol for dealing with situations in which a player faces criminal charges. "For a player on the 40-man [roster], it's a little different than a nonroster player. It's not all a discipline process the player goes through."
Presumably, Cherington was referring to counseling, though he would not elaborate.
"I just think it's better to let that process play out behind closed doors," he said, " but I will tell you this is something we take very seriously. Part of what it gets to is a matter of reliability. Part of being a major leaguer with the Red Sox is being reliable, being someone we feel we can trust day in and day out to perform and be ready. Certainly, on the field is part of it, but the other stuff is part of it, too.
"He's shown a great deal of remorse and understands the gravity of what happened and is going through the steps to learn from it."