Bard makes his final pitch to join the rotation

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Bard makes his final pitch to join the rotation

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Daniel Bard has made his final Grapefruit League start, but still, the Red Sox won't say where's he headed -- to the rotation or back to the bullpen.
What they will say, however, is how far Bard has come this spring in his attempt to make the transition from reliever to starter.
"Basically, he's where we hoped he could be,'' said Bobby Valentine after Bard allowed three runs on four hits over six innings with seven strikeouts and three walks in a 9-7 win over the Minnesota Twins on Friday at Hammond Stadium, "and where he hoped he could be. He wanted to come here and build and figure out all those nuances. I don't know that he figured them all out. You still have learning pains and growing experiences. But physically, he got to where he wants to be and he's a smart kid.''
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, meanwhile, caught Bard's first start earlier this spring, then didn't catch him at all until Friday afternoon in his final Grapefruit League outing.He, too, noticed a progression over the course of the spring.
"I think he's slowing things down a bit,'' said Saltalamacchia. "He's really slowing down and thinking about why he's throwing a certain pitch rather than just kind of throwing it.''
Saltalamacchia also has seen Bard ramp up his aggressiveness over the last few weeks.
"He's more comfortable with wanting to throw the ball over the plate,'' said Saltalamacchia. "He's not afraid for them to swing. He knows he has good stuff. He knows that they have do everything right to hit his pitch. He went out there today and basically said, 'Here I am -- see what you can do.' I think it's a boost of confidence.''
Added Bard: "I really do feel like I've gotten better with each start.''
Still, the mystery about Bard's role remains. Valentine said he wasn't ready to say he had made the rotation. Asked what Bard's potential was as a starter, Valentine equivocated some.
"No idea,'' he said. "You have to see him into a season before you figure that stuff out. I think he can start.''
Whether he will start the fourth game of the season for the Red Sox is still unclear, though it would seem a decision could come as soon as Saturday.
After being nicked for a run in the first on a double to the left-center gap by Justin Morneau, Bard faced one batter over the minimum from the second through the fifth before encountering some fatigue in the sixth. He needed 27 pitches to get through the final inning, allowing two runs in the process.
"I really was cruising until the sixth,'' he said. "Getting out the lineup for the third time. I kind of got that feeling, 'They've seen everything I've got,' because I really was mixing it up a lot. I tried to be a little too perfect with some of the pitches. But I was able to limit the damage.
"Focusing on the big picture, I thought it was a good outing.''
For now, however, Bard waits to learn his fate. He acknowledged it was "hard'' to keep out of his mind that Friday's outing would be his last until a decision is reached.
"At the same time,'' he said, "that's no different than pitching in a big game. There was something riding on it. For me, it was more personal and what my role's going to be. But at some point this year, hopefully I'm pitching in a big game and there's a lot more riding on it and it's team oriented.''
At the very least, Bard proved to himself that he could start.
"If the situation arises and I end up in the bullpen,'' he said, "and we need a starter down the road, maybe they'll look to me. Hopefully, I won't go there. But we'll see what happens.''

Gasper: Butler-to-Saints 'makes the most sense for everybody'

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Farrell defends Sox' shoulder program, but he first raised the issue

Farrell defends Sox' shoulder program, but he first raised the issue

Red Sox manager John Farrell didn’t scream “fake news" on Tuesday,  but he might as well have.

The only problem is he seems to be forgetting his own words, and his reliever’s.

Righty Tyler Thornburg is starting his Red Sox career on the disabled list because of a shoulder impingement. 

Another Dave Dombrowski pitching acquisition, another trip to the disabled list. Ho hum.

But the reason Thornburg is hurt, Farrell said, has nothing to do with the Red Sox’ shoulder program -- the same program Farrell referenced when talking about Thornburg earlier this month.

“There’s been a lot written targeting our shoulder program here,” Farrell told reporters on Tuesday, including the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. “I would discount that completely. He came into camp, he was throwing the ball extremely well, makes two appearances. They were two lengthy innings in which inflammation flared up to the point of shutting him down. But in the early work in spring training, he was throwing the ball outstanding. So to suggest that his situation or his symptoms are now the result of our shoulder program, that’s false.”

Let’s go back to March 10, when Farrell was asked in his usual pregame session with reporters about Thornburg’s status.

"He is throwing long-toss out to 120 feet today," Farrell said that day. “He’s also been going through a strength and conditioning phase, arm-wise. What we encounter with guys coming from other organizations, and whether it's Rick [Porcello], David [Price], guys that come in, and they go through our shoulder maintenance program, there's a period of adaptation they go through, and Tyler’s going through that right now. We're also going to get him on the mound and get some fundamental work with his delivery and just timing, and that's soon to come in the coming days. Right now it's long toss out to 120 feet.”

So Farrell volunteered, after Thornburg was taken out of game action, that the shoulder program appeared involved. 

Maybe that turned out not to be the case. But Farrell's the one who put this idea out there.

On March 11, Farrell was asked to elaborate about other pitchers who needed adjusting to how the Red Sox do their shoulder program.

“Rick Porcello is an example of that. Joe Kelly,” Farrell said. “And that's not to say that our program is the end-all, be-all, or the model for which everyone should be compared. That's just to say that what we do here might be a little more in-depth based on a conversation with the pitchers, that what they've experienced and what we ask them to do here. And large in part, it's with manual resistance movements on the training table. These are things that are not maybe administered elsewhere, so the body goes through some adaptation to get to that point. 

“So, in other words, a pitcher that might come in here previously, he pitched, he’s got recovery time and he goes and pitches again. There's a lot of work and exercise in between the outings that they may feel a little fatigued early on. But once they get those patterns, and that consistent work, the body adapts to it and their recovery times become much shorter. And it's one of the reasons we've had so much success keeping pitchers healthy and on the field.”

Except that Kelly has had a shoulder impingement in his time with the Red Sox, last April, and so too now does Thornburg.

In quotes that appeared in a March 12 story, Thornburg himself told the Herald’s Michael Silverman that he didn’t understand the Red Sox throwing program.

Thornburg said that after the December trade, he was sent a list of exercises from the training staff. The message he did not receive was that all of the exercises were to be performed daily.

“I kind of figured that this is a list of the exercises they incorporated, I didn’t think this is what they do all in one day,” said Thornburg. “I thought, ‘here’s a list of exercises, learn them, pick five or six of them,’ because that was pretty much what we did in Milwaukee.”

But according to Farrell, Thornburg’s current state has nothing to do with the program -- the same one Farrell himself cited when directly asked about Thornburg before.

Maybe the program was the wrong thing to point to originally. But Farrell did point to it.

"This is all still in line with the shoulder fatigue, the shoudler impingement and the subsequent inflammation that he's dealing with. That’s the best I can tell you at this point," Farrell said Tuesday. "Anytime a player, and we've had a number of players come in, when you come into a new organization, there's a period where guys adapt. Could it have been different from what he's done in the past? Sure. But to say it's the root cause, that’s a little false. That’s a lot false, and very short-sighted."

Hey, he started it.

Thornburg is not to throw for a week before a re-evaluation.