Daniel Bard to bullpen temporarily
Boston manager Bobby Valentine told reporters Sunday that Daniel Bard will be taken out of the starting rotation and will be pitching out of the Red Sox's beleaguered bullpen, for the time being, at least.
There were logistical and performance-driven reasons for Valentine's decision, which was announced after the Red Sox's ESPN Sunday Night game against the New York Yankees was rained out at Fenway Park.
First, Bard lost his scheduled start Sunday night to Mother Nature. So Valentine, not wanting to back up everyone in the staff an extra day, opted to skip Bard's spot this time through the rotation and pitch Jon Lester Monday night in the road trip opener in Minnesota, as previously scheduled. That also will keep Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront in line for their regularly scheduled starts. Lester and Beckett will be pitching with an extra day of rest, while Buchholz and Doubront will be on normal rest.
It's not unusual for a team to skip a fourth or fifth starter, especially early in the season because of rainout weather, but there was a dual purpose for the move.
Namely, that the Red Sox's bullpen also happens to be the worst in the majors.
This is where the move seems to make the most sense for the team, especially right now, and possibly for the rest of the season.
While the Red Sox committed to Bard as a starter in the offseason despite the fact he had been relatively solid in three seasons as closer Jonathan Papelbon's setup man, Boston's bullpen is last among the 30 teams in the majors in ERA (8.44 -- 40 earned runs in 42 2/3 innings), home runs allowed (11), hits allowed (60) and batting average against (.335) this young season.
Clearly, the bullpen has been in need of help all year, with the cry for help reaching a crescendo after the meltdown Saturday, when the relievers were torched for 14 runs in 1 2/3 innings in turning a 9-1 laugher into a 15-9 loss to the Yankees.
In Bard, Valentine would have someone he could count on to get him some outs. And the Red Sox have an easy solution to plug the right-hander's hole in the rotation. They can simply promote Aaron Cook from Pawtucket. The veteran right-hander has a May 1 opt-out clause and is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in three starts for the PawSox.
"We had an off-day already this week, this would make two in between starts for all of the starters," Valentine said. "Daniel will be skipped this time around. Tomorrow's starter (Lester) flew out at 6:30 (a.m.) today and he'll be one of the rested. Daniel will have an opportunity to pitch either in a bullpen session or out of the bullpen (in Minnesota) in the next couple of days. This isn't one of the easy decisions, but it has to be made and that's how we made it."
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Valentine would not commit to the idea of keeping Bard in the bullpen for a long period of time. As a starter, Bard is 0-2 with a 4.63 ERA, but in his second start he suffered a 1-0 loss.
"As the plan is now, he's our fifth starter," said Valentine. Bard's next scheduled start would be Friday in Chicago. Valentine said he expected to use Bard in a setup role, even though Alfredo Aceves (24.00 ERA, two blown saves) has mostly floundered as the de facto closer.
"I'd like to use him if we have a lead in the eighth inning just as he's been comfortable doing in the past," said Valentine. "I don't think it's an easy job. It should be acceptable physically."
Valentine, meanwhile, has been hearing angry boos from fans who are unhappy with the team's 4-10 start and some of the moves the first-year manager has been making. General manager Ben Cherington said Saturday night that he was "very satisfied" with Valentine, but the manager didn't embrace Cherington's assessment.
"I'm not satisfied with the job I did," Valentine told reporters. "I don't need to hear from Ben or ownership or anyone else. I've got to do better. Every way. Hitters go in slumps, pitchers go in slumps, managers go in slumps. You know? You figure it out. The record is the only thing that I'm judged on. That's how I judge myself. Pretty high standard. There's been some good things. Just like players, some of the guys who are in slumps have played pretty well at times. But I don't accept four wins in 14 games."
Valentine said he will try "swinging my way out" of his slump.
The Red Sox will have two new bodies in uniform as they try to shake the team slump in Minnesota.
Center fielder Marlon Byrd, acquired in a trade with the Chicago Cubs on Saturday, is expected to join the Sox in Minnesota, as is first baseman Lars Anderson, who was called up from Pawtucket to replace center fielder Jason Repko (left shoulder).
Repko was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Anderson, 24, was batting .255 with one homer and eight RBIs. He hit safely in his last six games. Anderson, a first baseman by trade, could be used as a pinch hitter or see some time in the outfield. Byrd, who will turn 35 in August, was batting .070 (3 for 43) for the Cubs.
In another little bit of Sox news, third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who had to leave Saturday's game because of a bruised left quadriceps, where he was hit by a pitch, would have been in the starting lineup for Sunday night's game.
Steven Krasner is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.