- Gordon Edes, Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- For the Boston Red Sox, it was a godsend.
For Daniel Bard's personal ambitions, it might well have been a kiss of death -- if not this week, soon enough.
After he restored order to the Red Sox's universe Monday night as a reliever, shutting down the Minnesota Twins in the eighth inning with the potential go-ahead run 90 feet away, Bard did wonders for the spirits of a team reeling from a series of bullpen implosions, the worst coming Saturday when Sox relievers gave up 14 runs to the Yankees while blowing a 9-1 lead.
But in doing so, Bard weakened his own case that the team is best served with him remaining in the starting rotation. He is still on track to make his start Friday night in Chicago -- this was supposed to be just a one-shot cameo appearance out of the bullpen after his turn was skipped following Sunday's rainout.
But only a soundproof booth will provide manager Bobby Valentine and general manager Ben Cherington refuge from the outside clamor urging that Bard stay in a bullpen that had been the worst in the majors through the season's first 14 games.
"That's the same thing I've done for the last few years," Bard said of entering with one out in the eighth inning and Jamey Carroll on third after what was ruled a single and two-base error by right fielder Ryan Sweeney, and getting a lineout from Josh Willingham and a popup from Ryan Doumit around an intentional walk to Justin Morneau.
Bard wound up being credited with his first win of 2012 when Cody Ross hit his second home run of the night to break a 5-5 tie in the ninth and Alfredo Aceves recorded a nerve-wracking save in the bottom of the inning.
"I was in jams my last start too, and worked out of those," Bard said. "It's really not all that different, just a lot of pressure when you haven't thrown any pitches when you get into (jams).
"Willingham's a righty. With a lefty on deck (Morneau) I was really trying to strike him out. I almost struck him out with the 2-and-2 pitch. The 3-and-2 was a really good pitch, but he was sitting on a slider. He did a good job to get the barrel on it."
Willingham hit the ball squarely, but right at third baseman Kevin Youkilis. Did Bard think it might go through?
"I didn't have time to think," he said.
After the free pass to Morneau, Bard induced Doumit to lift a shallow fly to left-center, where Mike Aviles ran it down.
Valentine was asked if he had hoped that Bard would be given the chance to have a clean inning in his relief stint.
"That wasn't clean?" he deadpanned.
"Well, he said he'd do what's best for the team and we had a tough situation there. I didn't think it would be that tough. He got a 3-and-2 line drive to third, a popup to short and a win in his win column. He allowed everybody to be happy campers."
Bard said before the game he was told by Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and Valentine that "they have every intention" of making his move to the bullpen temporary, but Bard did not rule out the possibility they could change their minds between now and his next scheduled start, Friday in Chicago.
"I'm not thinking about that right now," Bard said. "It could happen. We'll address that if it happens."
Valentine continues to maintain that with a scheduled day off and a rainout on the last homestand, the decision to skip Bard's turn in the rotation was more about not forcing Jon Lester and Josh Beckett to wait a week between starts than trying to stabilize the bullpen, which has a major-league worst 8.44 ERA and has surrendered 11 home runs.
"I asked a lot of questions as to what their goals were on this," Bard said. "They said right now they have every intention of it being temporary and making my start on Friday."
Asked if he viewed himself as a bullpen savior, Bard said, "That's one thing I told them right away. I'm totally willing to do this, talking to Bobby and Ben, it's their decision how to use me. I'm OK with it. I told them, 'Don't expect me, I'm not going to make eight guys pitch better.'
"I can go down and do what I can. If that offers maybe some comfort to other guys and lets them fall into their roles, then maybe it can help everybody. I think that's the goal."
Bard has made two starts for the Sox, both losses. He was charged with five runs in five-plus innings in a 7-3 loss to the Blue Jays in Toronto on April 10, then came back with a beauty on Patriots Day, a 1-0 loss to Tampa Bay in which he walked Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria to force home the game's only run in the seventh inning.
"Now I still view myself as a starter," Bard said before Monday's game. "They said they do too. That's where they said they want me in the long run. For now, they said they're trying to address a need for a couple of days and keep me from going 10 days without throwing. I told them I was OK with it for now."
Asked whether he thought the team would be better served with him in the bullpen, which has already lost closer Andrew Bailey (thumb surgery) and setup man Mark Melancon (demoted to minors), Bard said, "It's not for me to decide.
"I feel like I've done my job as a starter. They're trying to address a need. Whether I can completely turn everything around there is to be determined. I'm just looking at it as today and tomorrow and see what happens."
Bard said he ruled out pitching in back-to-back games for "health reasons" and said the club was in total agreement.