Bard: 'I'm a reliever; I think that's all I know right now'

Bard: 'I'm a reliever; I think that's all I know right now'
August 30, 2012, 1:15 am
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ANAHEIM -- Some three and a half years ago, Daniel Bard made his major league debut at Anaheim Stadium. Thursday night, he plans to begin the second chapter of that career in the very same stadium.
Bard was on hand in the Red Sox clubhouse Wednesday, though he wasn't activated for the middle game of the Sox' three-game series with the Angels. The plan is for him to be put on the roster Thursday, likely replacing Zach Stewart, Wednesday's spot starter.
"It's kind of ironic,'' said Bard of the location. "My wife pointed that out to me. It's kind of cool.''
Bard will return following an exile of several months in the minors. What was expected to be a relatively brief assignment to Pawtucket to fine tune some control issues instead became a nearly three month period in which he struggled mightily and seemed, at times, to be on the verge of having to start his career from scratch.
"It took some patience,'' said Bard, "but I'm glad to finally get the call (to come back). I think it just gave me a chance to work on some things without too much consequence in the results. I accomplished some really good things and I'm headed in the right direction. Now, I just need to get to back into that competitive environment and I can just focus on competing with the hitter.''
Bard, wno transitioned to the starting rotation in spring training, had a rought first two months, but his season bottomed out with a June 3 start in Toronto that saw him hit two batters and walk six others in just 1 23 innings.
"Pitching is never something you (completely) figure out,'' he said. "It's a constant process to get better and once you do feel good about how you're throwing the ball, it's constant work to maintain that. Every pitcher has his ups and downs and it's just another part of my journey.''
In 31 games in Pawtucket -- all but one in relief -- Bard compiled a 7.03 ERA ERA and in 32 innings, walked almost as many hitters (29) as he struck out.
But in his last three outings, he didn't issue a single walk and believes the major struggles are behind him.
"My last few (appearances) have been really good,'' he said. "In fact, I've simplified my delivery to a point where I can just go out there and not think about it and just focus on getting the hitter out.''
Initially, Bard said he struggled mentally at Triple A, in part because there's little adrenaline or significance attached to the games.
"Once I got through that,'' he recounted, "I forced myself to go out and compete. And those were the best outings I had. So I think just being in this (major league) environment up here is only going to help.''
In reworking his mechanics, finding the solution wasn't simple. Rather, there were a number of issues, some of them tied together, that needed to be untangled.
"If there was one magic pill to take,'' Bard said, "I think we would have done that in the beginning. I think that's what led to some inconsistent results. (It was like) 'OK, we've got the arm slot where I want it to be, let's try to get the drive with my legs right.' And it would take me one outing to get a good feel for it. You just kind of have to roll with the punches and know that what you're doing is making you better.''
After beginning the year in the rotation, Bard now says he's returned to the bullpen.
"I'm a reliever,'' he said. "I think that's all I know right now.''
He regrets that he changes his delivery and his approach in an effort to become a successful starter.
"I tried to throw more changeups, back-door cutters, back-door sinkers -- just try to do things that I hadn't done in the past,'' he said. "It worked some and it didn't work other days and I kind of just got in too deep with it. I kind of lost the pitcher that I felt like I was the last three years so I had to do what I could to rediscover that.''
Back in the bullpen, Bard can also go back to basics.
"If you look at any video from the last three years,'' he said, "I'm pretty much fastball-slider, attack the zone and hit it if you can. That's the mentality I'm back to now.''
Nonetheless, he doesn't regret trying to make the switch.
"Not at all,'' he said. "I took it as a challenge. I wouldn't even really say I failed. I had one really bad start (the last one on June) and thar's what led me to being sent down. Until then, I was pretty much on par with all the other guys on the rotation.
"It was what it was. It was an experiment. I chose to move forward out of the bullpen and I'm fine with that, too.''