Bard embracing Red Sox role change


Bard embracing Red Sox role change

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Daniel Bard is embarking on a new phase of his career and it is not one which he is undertaking lightly.

Toward the end of last season, Bard approached Red Sox management and signaled that he would like to transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation.

Last November, however, Bard thought his idea for a job change was over before it began. Closer Jonathan Papelbon left the Red Sox to sign a four-year, 50 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies and Bard naturally assumed that the Sox would now ask him to shift from set-up man to closer.

Instead, general manager Ben Cherington said he would reconstruct the back end of the bullpen on his own and allow Bard to go forward with his plan to start.

The move was cemented when Bard spoke with new manager Bobby Valentine for the first time.

"He asked me, 'What do you want to do?' " recounted Bard Tuesday. "I said, 'I want to start or close. I think I can do either one really well. Whatever you guys think will help the team more.' Turns out, they think starting's the way to go."

That was good news for Bard, who, despite his offer to do either, preferred to close.

"It's a change of scenery," he said. "If I do the same things that I did the last three years out of the bullpen and can convert that to almost three times as many innings, it's a no-brainer. It's going to help the team more and it's a new challenge for me. I'm excited about it."

But while Bard is motivated to make the switch, the move is more complicated than that. Beyond whatever mental adjustments Bard must make, there's the matter of the physical demands.

"There's a lot of unknowns," acknowledged Bard. "I haven't thrown these many innings in my whole life. But then again, I also think that 75 innings out of the bullpen, to me and guys I've talked to who've made this transition before, there's just as much wear-and-tear on your arm and your body as 200 in the rotation."

Indeed, because Bard has never pitched more than 75 innings in a single season in the big leagues, there had been talk that the Sox would impose a strict innings limit on him in his first season as a starter, in much the same way might with a young pitcher being promoted to the majors for the first time.

Bard, however, doesn't believe that will be necessary.

"I don't want an innings limit," said Bard. "If I'm (tired) in August, I'll say something to them. But I don't see that happening. I think my delivery is pretty fluid that the wear-and-tear on my arm is not going to be a whole lot different than it has been in past years."

This spring, Bard will attempt to successfully transition in a way that Papelbon did not. In the spring of 2007, concerned with how his shoulder would hold up in the long run, the Sox experimented with moving Papelbon from closer to starter.

Halfway through the spring, however, Papelbon decided he was made for pitching the ninth inning and convinced manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein to let him return to the back end of the bullpen.

"He said it didn't work for him (because) his mentality was so geared toward pitching every day," said Bard. "That's just the way he works. He's got to be doing something all the time. I have a little bit of that in me. I love the reliever lifestyle, getting ready to go every day. But that's going to be the difference, the mental side of it, trying to find something to occupy my time those four days in between."

This is not Bard's first foray into the starting rotation. In his first year in pro ball, Bard made 22 starts at Single A and compiled a bloated a 7.08 while averaging more than a walk an inning.

But Bard said his struggles were unrelated to his role. His mechanics were a mess and he would have had difficulty pitching anytime.

"If you can find video of me in '07," he said ruefully, "my mechanics were so messed up. It's not a surprise I couldn't throw strikes on a somewhat regular basis. The next year, I made the move to the bullpen and I made a lot of tweaks to my mechanics to get back to where I was comfortable. That's the reason my results got better; it had nothing to do with my role change."

The biggest adjustment, Bard believes, will be immersing himself more fully into advance scouting reports and game-planning to get the same hitters out three times, instead of just once as a reliever.

"I'm still going to go out and pitch to my strengths," he said, "but you'll see more of the four pitches that I throw."

Tiger Woods arrested for DUI in Jupiter, Florida


Tiger Woods arrested for DUI in Jupiter, Florida

Tiger Woods, recovering from his fourth back surgery in the last three years, was arrested on DUI charges Monday morning in Jupiter, Fla.

Woods, 41, is the winner of 79 PGA tournaments in his career (including 14 majors). He was stopped this morning at around 3 a.m. and booked at 7:18 a.m. He was released on his own recognizance at 10:50 a.m.

Physical problems have plagued Woods in recent years, but he said last week "unequivocally, I want to play professional golf again." However, he will need months to recover from his most recent surgery.

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Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

BOSTON –  Terry Rozier was having a rough stretch where his minutes were limited and when he did play, he didn’t play particularly well.
Among the voices in his ear offering words of encouragement was Avery Bradley who knows all too well what Rozier was going through.
For all his time as a Celtic, Bradley has let his work on the floor do the talking for him.
But as the most tenured Celtic on the roster, his leadership has to be about more than just getting the job done, but servicing as a vocal leader as well.
For a player whose growth from one year to the next has been a constant, being a more vocal leader has been the one dynamic of his game that has improved the most during this past season.
And it is that kind of leadership that will carry into the summer what is a pivotal offseason for both Bradley and this Celtics franchise which was eliminated by Cleveland in the Conference finals, the first time the Celtics got that deep in the playoffs since 2012.
He is entering the final year of the four-year, $32 million contract he signed in 2014. And it comes at a time when his fellow Tacoma, Wash. native and backcourt mate Isaiah Thomas will likely hit free agency where he’s expected to command a max or near-max contract that would pay him an annual salary in the neighborhood of $30 million.
At this point in time, Bradley isn’t giving too much thought to his impending contract status.
Instead, he’s more consumed by finding ways to improve his overall game and in doing so, help guide the Celtics to what has to be their focus for next season – a trip to the NBA Finals.
While Celtics players have said their focus has always been on advancing as far into the playoffs as possible, it wasn’t until this past season did they actually provide hope and promise that Banner 18 may be closer than you think.
It was an emotional time for the Celtics, dealing with the unexpected death of Chyna Thomas, the younger sister of Isaiah Thomas, just hours before Boston’s first playoff game this season.
And then there were injuries such as Thomas’ right hip strain that ended his postseason by halftime of Boston’s Eastern Conference finals matchup with Cleveland.
But through that pain, we saw the emergence of Bradley in a light we have seldom seen him in as a Celtic.
We have seen him play well in the past, but it wasn’t until Thomas’ injury did we see Bradley showcase even more elements of his game that had been overlooked.
One of the constant knocks on Bradley has been his ball-handling.
And yet there were a number of occasions following Thomas’ playoff-ending injury, where Bradley attacked defenders off the dribble and finished with lay-ups and an occasional dunk in transition.
Among players who appeared in at least 12 playoff games this year, only Washington’s John Wall (7.9), Cleveland’s LeBron James (6.8) and Golden State’s Stephen Curry (5.2) averaged more points in transition than Bradley (4.7).
Bradley recognized the team needed him to be more assertive, do things that forced him to be more front-and-center which is part of his evolution in Boston as a leader on this team.
“It’s weird but players like Al (Horford) definitely helped me get out of my shell and pushed me this year to be more of a vocal leader,” Bradley said.
And that talent combined with Bradley doing what he does every offseason – come back significantly better in some facet of his game – speaks to how he’s steadily growing into being a leader whose actions as well as his words are impactful.