Bard: "I'm not ready to give up on starting'

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Bard: "I'm not ready to give up on starting'

PAWTUCKET, R.I. It would have been understandable if Daniel Bard had chosen not to speak to the media after his outing Monday night. Not appreciated, but understood. After all, its not the easiest thing to go back to the minor leagues when you were formerly a lights-out pitcher (albeit, in an entirely different role) in the big leagues.

Instead, Bard, was loquacious in his answers, explaining, among other things, what he is trying to accomplish with Triple-A Pawtucket since his demotion June 7 and the decision to not start Monday night as originally planned, working out of the pen instead.

Q: How do you look at your outings here, measuring what youre trying to accomplish?
Bard: Yeah, I think the nice thing about being down here is that the wins and losses arent quite as important and you can really focus on getting the work in and kind of look at the process more than the result, which is harder to focus on when youre up there pitching for Boston. That wouldnt allow me to do that.

Q: Why the decision to not start Monday?
Bard: I just told them after that last one Friday I said that starting with the intention of going one inning just felt really strange. I mean, it felt like a very manufactured situation, didnt feel like I was really part of a baseball game. So I just told them , I said Im all good with the short stints closer together. I think thats a good way to get back on track. But I dont see, if were trying to go with more of a bullpen feel, which is kind of what they talked to me about when we get through this and then translate to starting, I said why dont we just do it out of the bullpen? So, I told them lets just do that. And they were ok with it, with the intent of doing this a few times and like I said, translating back to starting.

Q: What do you think of your outing Monday against the Gwinnett Braves?
Bard: It took me two batters I think to really get locked into an arm slot. I was a little bit low, lower than I would like on those first couple hitters and you saw some balls running away from me. And then I make the adjustment and I think pitched pretty well to those last three guys. So the nice thing is I can focus on that and say I wasnt perfect but it doesnt matter. I was locked in, I got something good to walk away with those last three hitters.

Q: What did you think of your fastball and slider?
Bard: Fastball was good, got better as the inning went on. I think a lot of it is just the level of conviction that Im throwing it with and that got better as the inning went on. So thats all I can ask, because sometimes the slider kind of locks me back in. If Im missing with the fastball, throw a couple sliders and then throw the fastball off of that. So its kind of what I did tonight.

Q: The decision to not start makes people think youll eventually be back in bullpen for the Red Sox. What are your thoughts on that?
Bard: Thats fine. People are going to think whatever they want. I think its not a secret that Ive had success out of the bullpen. I think its no secret that thats where Im most comfortable the adrenaline rush that comes with it, the added pressure of getting loose quick and everything, thats where Im comfortable. Still while we can say that, I think we still have to say Im not ready to give up on starting. I think, like I said after the Toronto outing before I even knew I was getting optioned, was that we, I think, we had changed too many things to try to become a starting pitcher rather than take the same pitcher Ive been the last three or four years and put that guy in a starting role. So I think this is a good first step in that process.

Q: How much of what youre trying to accomplish down here is related to confidence and how much is physical?
Bard: Well, I dont think, confidence is not an issue at all. I think it was I mechanically got out of whack my last I dont want to say my last few starts because I felt really good against Detroit May 29 and that wasnt that long ago. It was maybe 10 or 11, 12 days ago. So I dont think confidence is an issue. My mechanics needed to get back in check. Ill be the first to admit it and this wouldn't have been my first choice of how to fix it but thats what they decided for me and Im trying to make the best of it. So, obviously getting sent down to Triple A is a little bit of a reality check for you and you try not to let it affect your confidence because I know how good of a pitcher I am and how good I can be. So just using it as an opportunity to work on some stuff and in a lower-pressure environment.

Q: Whats next in the process?
Bard: I think well do, I dont think theres a number put on anything but probably another one or two of these type outings. Maybe go two innings if I have a quick first inning, kind of thing, just to really get that feel back. If the next two or three go really well, well look from there and see where the needs are.

Q: It would seem that a one-inning outing is like starting from square one?
Bard: Not really. I think its just, I think I could have just gone to the obviously the way the roster was set up at the time, probably could have just gone to the bullpen and gotten two or three outings in the big leagues and missed a start maybe. But we didnt have a lot of roster flexibility. Its nobodys fault. Its just how it is. So Im getting that same work in down here.

Q: How is that different from making starts for Pawtucket?
Bard: Well I think it wasnt, it just kind of points to how its allowing me to get my delivery to where Im comfortable, where I want it to be. And if theyre sending me out there every five days for 90, 100 pitches, if it doesnt go how we want, if I dont feel the way I want to feel, then were kind of wasting five days, instead of if I went out there tonight and didnt like how I felt, then screw it, we wasted one day, 20 pitches and I come back in three days and I can try to correct it. Tonight felt good. I think it was not perfect but like I said we can focus on the process. Tonight I think it was a good step in the right direction.

His post-game session wrapped, Bard thanked the handful of writers, then wished us a good night. Gracious and loquacious.

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.