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.''

Isaiah Thomas won't make trip to Oklahoma City for Sunday game

Isaiah Thomas won't make trip to Oklahoma City for Sunday game

BOSTON – Facing Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook with a fully healthy squad is tough. 
 
Doing so without your leading scorer makes the challenge all that much greater. 
 
That is where the Celtics find themselves heading into Sunday night’s game against the Thunder without Isaiah Thomas, who did not travel with the team when they left for Oklahoma City today. 
 
Boston’s leading scorer this season with 26 points per game, Thomas suffered a right groin injury against Houston on Dec. 5 and has missed the Celtics’ past two games because of it. 
 
He was hoping to convince Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to let him travel with the team, but Thomas acknowledged convincing Ainge was a long shot. 
 
“He’s not really in favor of me going,” Thomas told reporters on Friday. “I’m trying to convince them to let me go. If I’m there, they know I’m going to try and play. I’m shooting for Wednesday [at San Antonio] for the most part. That’s more realistic than Sunday. Hopefully I can play on Wednesday.”
 
Boston has split the two games with Thomas out, beating the you-know-what out of Orlando 117-87 on the road, but dropping one at home 101-94 to Toronto on Friday night. 
 
As disappointed as Thomas is with not being able to play – it’s the first games he has missed since the 2014-2015 season – he understands the potential problems that could surface with an injury like this if he and the Celtics aren’t careful. 
 
“They keep wanting to be very patient with this,” Thomas said. “They don’t want to re-injure it. It is an injury that can get re-injured and be a problem the rest of the season. I don’t want that. On top of that, it gives me time to heal all the other injuries I have.”
 
Among the other injuries Thomas was referring to, is a still-swollen finger on his left (shooting) hand. 
 
The injury was believed to have happened on Nov. 12 against Indiana. 
 
While it was painfully sore, it didn’t seem to be an issue in Boston’s next game against New Orleans when he scored a season-high 37 points. He followed that up with a 30-point performance in a 90-83 win over Dallas.
 

Heinen looking to show his offense in his shot on Krejci line

Heinen looking to show his offense in his shot on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins mixed things up with their roster a bit on Saturday after dropping a couple of games in a row to Washington and Colorado. 

Fourth-line energy winger Noel Acciari and playmaking forward Danton Heinen were called up from Providence and will be in the lineup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden on Saturday night. 
Acciari went to Providence the past couple of days to get some game action in after missing the past month with a lower body injury, but clearly showed he’s ready to go. 

So, Acciari is back to provide the same hard-hitting and energy he showed before he was hurt and Heinen is looking to show off a little more offense than in his first stint with the Black and Gold this season. He’ll be featured in a top role as left wing with David Krejci and David Backes and with marching orders to shoot the puck like he never shot it in his previous stint in Boston. 

For the Bruins, it’s about getting another look at a candidate to play left wing beside Krejci with both Ryan Spooner and Tim Schaller, with limitations to their respective games, unable to fully grasp that same opportunity. 

“My hope is that Heinen can come in and give us some good hockey. He’s a skill player and he’s been down there for a while, and he’s back up again because he’s been playing well,” said Claude Julien of the Bruins rookie, who had four goals and seven points in his past five games with Providence. “Hopefully he can play well here also. It’s about getting some confidence. When he went down to [the AHL] the pace of his game had to get a little bit better, and in the battles coming up with the puck along the walls. Those are the kinds of things we thought he could work on down in Providence.”

Heinen knows he needs to shoot the puck a bit more to show off his offense after a seven-game stint with the Bruins where he went scoreless, was a minus-2 and had just six shots on net.

“Being hard on the walls, playing fast and shooting the puck, those were all things I was working on [in Providence],” said Heinen, who has seven goals and 13 points in 13 games for the P-Bruins after being assigned to Providence. “I was doing what they told me to do [in Providence] and that’s shoot the puck. They were going in, and I was getting some good opportunities on the power play. It’s seriously tough to get chances [at the NHL level], so you can’t pass them up when you have chances. That was kind of my focus down there.”

Fellow fourth-line energy winger Anton Blidh has been shipped to Providence after three solid games with the Black and Gold. 

Julien said Blidh goes back to Providence having adequately shown that he can play in the NHL. He clearly showed the Bruins that he understands his role as a player that stirs things up a bit and gets his nose dirty on a regular basis.

“[Blidh] was fine. No issues there. He does his job. He plays with lots of energy and obviously he’s getting more experience. He’s a lot better at understanding his positioning within the game and what he has to do,” said Julien. “I thought he helped us out for the time that he was here.”

With Heinen and Acciari both in the lineup and Blidh back in Providence, that means Jimmy Hayes will be scratched after dressing for three of the past four games for Boston.