Red Sox designate Bard in roster overhaul
The Boston Red Sox designated once-promising power pitcher Daniel Bard for assignment on Sunday to make room on their 40-man roster for some new arrivals.
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 club 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.
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."
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