Bard embracing Red Sox role change

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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."

Kevin Walsh: An unforgettable encounter with Arnold Palmer

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Kevin Walsh: An unforgettable encounter with Arnold Palmer

With the passing of Arnold Palmer, CSN's Kevin Walsh looks back on an unforgettable encounter he had with the golf legend

It was May 2000.  I had just finished playing golf at Pebble Beach.  I walked out of the clubhouse and a Lincoln Town Car pulled up to the putting green, Arnold Palmer hopped out. It was as if he’d fallen out of the sky. 

I had my tape recorder with me and asked if I could ask him a few questions about being a caddy in his younger years in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. 

“Yes, but I have only about five minutes,” he said.

I was very nervous and having trouble putting the cassette tape into the recorder.  He eventually took it out of my hands and did it for me. 

My nerves were gone.

So we’re talking and the door to The Lodge bursts open and a guy yells “Hey Arnold!  We’re in the bar having a beer!”

“Well,” Arnold yells back, “Order me one!”

Arnold was hard of hearing.  He saddled up next to me, and tilted his head so I could talk right into his ear. I couldn’t believe I was talking directly into Arnold Palmer’s ear. He was practically stepping on my feet. He wore tiny hearing aids that were only visible if you were as close as I was.

After ten minutes of talking, I reminded him that he had friends waiting, and a beer that was probably warm by that time.  He wanted to make sure that I had enough.  I did and I was beaming.  I’m not sure my feet touched the ground on the walk back to the car.  

Golf legend Arnold Palmer passes away at 87

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Golf legend Arnold Palmer passes away at 87

Arnold Palmer brought a country-club sport to the masses with a hard-charging style, charisma and a commoner's touch. At ease with both presidents and the golfing public, and on a first-name basis with both, "The King," died Sunday in Pittsburgh. He was 87.

Alastair Johnson, CEO of Arnold Palmer Enterprises, confirmed that Palmer died Sunday afternoon of complications from heart problems.

Palmer ranked among the most important figures in golf history, and it went well beyond his seven major championships and 62 PGA Tour wins. His good looks, devilish grin and go-for-broke manner made the elite sport appealing to one and all. And it helped that he arrived about the same time as television moved into most households, a perfect fit that sent golf to unprecedented popularity.

Beyond his golf, Palmer was a pioneer in sports marketing, paving the way for scores of other athletes to reap in millions from endorsements. Some four decades after his last PGA Tour win, he ranked among the highest-earners in golf.

On the golf course, Palmer was an icon not for how often he won, but the way he did it.