All-Star pitchers taking note of Bard's control problems

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All-Star pitchers taking note of Bard's control problems

KANSAS CITY -- Daniel Bard is about as far away from the All-Star Game as a player can be -- in the minors, struggling to overcome his increasingly major control problems.

But that doesn't mean that Bard isn't off the radar of some players here.

Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez has been highly critical of the Red Sox' treatment of Bard.

"Reliever, starter . . . reliever, starter," said Perez. "As a pitcher, all you want is to know your roll. He's a tremendous set-up-slash-closer guy. Just leave him there. Obviously, starting pitchers are more valuable, they pitch more and innings and all that. But he had control problems when he first started (in the minors), didn't he? And then they moved him to the pen. It was done and he was nasty. And then back to starting and he did alright in the beginning.

"Now, it's back to no control. You'd have ask to him, but I think part (of the problems) are not feeling comfortable, obviously. Put him back in that eighth inning role and he's a monster."

Chicago White Sox lefty Chris Sale took something of a similar path to the big leagues as Bard. A first-round pick in 2010, Sale made 79 appearances in relief for the White Sox in 2010 and 2011 before being shifted to the rotation this year.

Unlike Bard, he made the transition seem almost seamless. In 15 first-half starts with Chicago, he was 10-2 with a 2.19 ERA, earning a spot on the A.L. All-Star squad.

"I've paid attention to (Bard's struggles," said Sale. "He's a great pitcher. He's got electric stuff. He'll figure it out. It's one of those things that sometimes takes some time to get ahold of. But he'll get there."

Sale has dealt with the different physical demands that come with starting and the mental adjustments, too.

"You come out of the bullpen and it's grip-and-rip," he said. "You're going 100 percent focus and maybe 110-percent effort. As a starter, maybe your effort level is toned down so you have something there in the later innings when you need it."

Perez was unaware that Bard has been dealing with what players call "The Thing" -- the sudden inability to throw the ball over the plate.

"Like Rick Ankiel?" asked Perez, wincing at that the thought, referring to the former St. Louis Cardinals lefty who suffered from the same malady several seasons ago and became an outfielder. "That's what he was doing when he (first) signed. I've been facing him since college. He was at North Carolina and I was at Miami, so I kind of followed him. Now, it's back to that.

"It's obviously something mental. I feel bad for him. My heart goes out to him. Obviously, he knows how to throw a baseball. It's a mental block. It sucks. It's hard enough when you're on and making pitches. But to have that anxiety of, 'Oh, God . . . I don't want to hit this guy.' It's a harsh cycle to break. But he did it once, so he can do it. He's just got to find some confidence somewhere.

"Luckily, I haven't been there. I hope I never get there. But it sucks."

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