Between 2010 and 2011 Daniel Bard was one of the best relief pitchers in all of baseball. In 2010 he had a miniscule 1.93 ERA in 74.2 innings, followed by a 25 scoreless appearance streak the next year. He and Jonathan Papelbon were one of, if not the best set-up, closer tandems in the game.
Then came 2012 – a complete disaster. Bard and the Red Sox experimented with him in a starting role, and it blew up in their faces. He went 5-6 with a 6.22 ERA in 17 appearances.
Bard’s command was lost. His blazing fastball couldn’t find the plate. Everything was gone. The experiment of him as a starter was a failure. He was sent down to Triple-A Pawtucket on June 6, and remained there until the end of August.
At Pawtucket every appearance was an event and back in Boston people still couldn’t believe what they were seeing. In 32 innings Bard had a 7.03 ERA, walking 29 and hitting another 10. His control, which was one of the biggest reasons for his initial success, was now causing him to struggle tremendously.
Luckily for Bard, like for the Red Sox as an organization, 2013 is a fresh start – a new manager, a relatively new team, and a new attitude.
“Starting a new season, I'm excited. I'm looking forward to it,” Bard said to reporters last weekend. “The past is the past and I'm going to go off how I feel on a day-to-day basis, and today I felt really good."
The North Carolina grad will be back in his more comfortable role as a reliever, and as of now will split set up duties with Andrew Bailey. Bard knows how talented he is, he just needs to show he can get back to what he was two seasons ago.
"I know I have something to prove but at the same time I feel really good," Bard said.
Some reports have surfaced over the past few days of Bard potentially starting the season in Pawtucket. But at age 27 and holding the title of an MLB Players Association representative, Bard is unlikely to be treated like a rookie by the Sox.
Proceedings in Fort Myers have been relatively jovial for the Red Sox so far. Here are a few notes from spring training Tuesday:
- John Farrell told WEEI.com that as of now Jarrod Saltalamacchia is the No. 1 catcher on the roster, with David Ross currently serving as the backup.
- John Lackey will start Boston’s Grapefruit League opener against the Rays on Saturday. Jon Lester will start Sunday against the Cardinals and is in line to start on Opening Day in the regular season. - Matt Burke
Follow Metro Boston Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84.