Bard makes his final pitch to join the rotation

Bard makes his final pitch to join the rotation
March 30, 2012, 9:55 pm
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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.''