Bard performance resurrects old bullpen debate

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Bard performance resurrects old bullpen debate

TORONTO -- The debate which started early in the offseason and never quite died off was reignited again by the second inning on Sunday.

Should Daniel Bard be a starter or a reliever?

After his performance Sunday afternoon in the series finale against the Blue Jays, those choosing the latter may be the majority. But, whether that group includes the Red Sox brain trust remains to be seen.

Bard lasted just 1 23 innings. Facing 13 batters he gave up five runs on one hit, six walks, a home run, and two hit batters, with two strikeouts.

It was the shortest outing by a Sox starting pitcher since Andrew Miller lasted just 1 13 innings on Sept. 2 against the Rangers, giving up six runs on five hits and four walks with a strikeout.

Bards record fell to 5-6 while his ERA rose from 4.56 to 5.24. In 23 games (two starts) against the Blue Jays he is 0-4 with an ERA of 6.10.

As bad as those numbers look, his command was even worse. It was clear from the first batter Bard was struggling with his control.

Its a combination of things, Bard said. You miss close with some. I think thats the difference between when youre feeling good about your delivery and when youre not. You miss with a pitch and you feel good about it and you say screw it and repeat it and do everything the exact same and trust that its going to go where its supposed to. When youre searching for it, try to tweak something because maybe that wasnt good enough and try to make it a little better, thats where I got caught up today.

Bard walked the first two batters he faced before giving up a three-run blast to Jose Bautista. But Bard, who needed 28 pitches to get through the first inning, got out of the inning without allowing any more runs, giving manager Bobby Valentine some hope that his right-hander could right himself between innings.

I was hoping, Valentine said. Pitching coach Bob McClure talked to him. I was hoping against hope, I guess.

As it turned out, it was against hope as Bard came out for the second. He walked the first batter on four pitches. He walked the next batter before two straight strikeouts gave the impression he was regaining command.

But Bard hit Yunel Escobar then walked Bautista to force in a run, and he hit Edward Encarnacion with a pitch to drive in another. That would end Bards outing.

Daniel just couldnt find it, obviously, Valentine said. I was hoping he was going to find a pitch or a release point that worked for him.

After Bards second hit batter, both in on the hands of right-handed hitters Escobar and Encarnacion, Valentine took him out, not wanting to risk an injury.

He couldnt throw the fastball on the outside part of the plate and had right-handed hitters coming up, Valentine said. The last thing I want to do was see anyone get hurt. I didn't know he was going to throw sliders against right-handers.

While Bard struggled with all his pitches, Valentine was most surprised by his fastball.

I was surprised it was a different fastball, Valentine said. That wasnt the fastball he had last time. I was hoping that he was going to build on that. It was nowhere near it.

In his last outing, Bard beat the Tigers' Justin Verlander. Bard went 5 13 innings, giving up two runs (on solo homers) on five hits and two walks with four strikeouts. Bard had won his two previous outings and three of the last four.

The stark contrast between his last two performances surprised even Bard.

I really thought Id found something with my delivery going into the last one with very improved results, Bard said. Wasnt perfect, but I felt very good about how I threw the ball. Tried to carry those same things into today and just didnt repeat it as much.

Bard said he had no inkling during his pregame warm-up in the bullpen what he was in for.

I had a really, really, good warm-up session, he said. Ive learned in the past whether you warm up really good or really bad it usually doesnt necessarily translate to how you pitch in a game. Usually you use that when you have a bad warm up. I felt locked in coming out. Just didnt carry over into the game.

Still he thought he could turn it around.

When I was able to locate some of those breaking balls for strikes, that can kind of turn things around and get the fastball locked in, too, he said. I just didnt did do it on a consistent basis. Not long enough for me to right the ship.

Bard looked at the video of his performance when he came out of the game.

I was watching some video I had plenty of time after I came out of the game watching video from last couple of years and looking at what I might be doing different, he said. The ability to repeat just isnt there. The nice thing about watching that and having that footage to look back at, is its right there. Theres video evidence that Ive done this a thousand times before. Well dig into that a little more and come up with something more concrete the next few days.

Maybe we just tried to turn me into a starter rather than take the same pitcher I was out of the pen and move that guy to the rotation, which is probably what should have been done. Its partially my fault. Its all my fault, essentially so maybe its a matter of getting back to what I had success doing in the past.

Asked if he was referring to a return to his previous role or a prior approach, Bard replied:

I mean approach, he said. Theres no reason the way I threw the ball out of the bullpen shouldnt translate to starting. I know its not exactly the same. Weve tried to change too many things. We just need to get back to being simple.

Should the Sox consider skipping Bards turn to give him some time to work on things?

Ill think about it a while, Valentine said. I have some time. Regretful its going to have to take up an off-day. I dont know.

I dont know, Bard said. Its too soon to answer that question.

Such an outing could have an adverse effect on a pitchers psyche.

I dont know, Valentine said. Sometimes its easy and sometimes its hard. Depends on the individual.

As Valentine emerged from the dugout to remove Bard, the right-hander would have preferred staying in. But he also knew the right decision was being made.

I want to get out of my own jam there, he said. Its one of those things Ive been able to grind through similar type situations -- maybe not to that extent -- and been able to get us through five innings. My mind I was trying to do that and on way to doing it but you cant blame the manager for taking me out.

No, you cant. And now the Sox may have another decision to make.

Jackie Bradley Jr. extends hitting streak to 28 games

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Jackie Bradley Jr. extends hitting streak to 28 games

BOSTON — Boston Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. has extended his hitting streak to 28 games with a second-inning double Tuesday night against the Colorado Rockies.

It's the longest hitting streak in the majors this season and tied with Wade Boggs (1985) for the fifth-longest in Red Sox history. Dom DiMaggio holds the franchise record with a 34-game streak in 1949. DiMaggio's brother, Joe, hit in 56 straight games in 1941 for the major league record.

Bradley lined the first pitch he saw from Jorge De La Rosa into left field to keep the streak going.

Red Sox confident in Smith-less bullpen, plan no moves at this point

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Red Sox confident in Smith-less bullpen, plan no moves at this point

BOSTON -- The loss of reliever Carson Smith for the rest of this season -- and the start of next year, too -- is potentially a significant blow for the Red Sox bullpen.

But both vice-president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and manager John Farrell expressed confidence that the Sox can survive -- and even thrive -- without the hard-throwing right-handed reliever, who underwent Tommy John surgery Tuesday and will be sidelined until at least the middle of next season.

"Unfortunately, we really haven't had Carson much this year,'' noted Dombrowski, referring to the total of 2 2/3 innings Smith has pitched, "so our bullpen now has the ninth, eighth and seventh innings set with Craig [Kimbrel], Koji [Uehara] and [Junichi Tazawa]. [Matt] Barnes and Heath [Hembree] have both had opportunities to step up and pitched well for us. We'll continue to see if they do that.''

"I really like our bullpen,'' echoed Farrell. "We've had depth emerge with Hembree and Barnes, and we're able to distribute the workload evenly to protect Taz and Koji.''

But the Sox' high-leverage set-up crew features a 41-year-old (Uehara) and Tazawa, who has faltered badly in the August in each of the last two seasons because of overwork.

"I guess it's something we'll continue to watch,'' said Dombrowski. "There's still quite a bit of time before the [Aug. 1] trade deadline. So you continue to watch that. I feel comfortable with the way it is now, but we'll have to wait and see. We didn't anticipate this and that's really why we got Carson -- to give us more depth in case something did happen. But we'll continue to see what takes place.''

Dombrowski said it was too soon to begin exploring outside trade possibilities, given that talk doesn't intensify until after the draft in June.

"If something [else] were to happen,'' Dombrowski said, "I guess we'd be more aggressive. But right now, the way Barnes and Hembree (are pitching), along with [Robbie] Ross Jr. and [Tommy] Layne . . . we feel pretty good about our bullpen -- right now.''

"I really like our bullpen,'' noted Farrell. "We've had depth emerge with Hembree and Barnes and we're able to distribute the workload evenly to protect Taz and Koji.''

One possibile option could be taking a look at Joe Kelly in the bullpen. Kelly was sensational Saturday, allowing one hit in 6 2/3 innings in his first start back from a shoulder impingement. But it's long been thought that his stuff would translate well to the bullpen, and the Sox will have six starting pitchers when Eduardo Rodriguez returns.

"It's a great question, but it's not one I'll approach at this time,'' said Dombrowski. "We haven't specifically talked about putting Joe Kelly in the bullpen. But we're also aware that we're not going to use six starters.''

Smith is expected to miss the next 11-14 months, the typical recovery time from Tommy John surgery.

He was first injured on March 21, when he left the mound in Jupiter, Fla. during a Grapefruit League game. The diagnosis was a strained flexor muscle in the forearm, and he returned to action earlier this month. But he continued to experience discomfort, and a followup MRI Friday revealed a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL).

Dombrowski said "there was nothing at the time in March (that suggested a torn UCL). Flexor muscles, sometimes that leads to (torn UCL's). But not always. It's an alert that goes up in your mind when dealing with elbow. But you can't spend time obsessing about it, because then you wouldn't sleep on any night.''

Dombrowski said there were no red flags at the time of last December's trade with Seattle that Smith may be pre-disposed to this kind of injury with his cross-fire, three-quarters delivery.

"I think when you look at his delivery,'' acknowledged Dombrowski, "you'd say it's an unusual delivery. It's probably more apt to have injury. We had the medical information and we thought he'd be fine.''

Tuesday's Red Sox-Rockies lineups: Shaw sits out for first time all year

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Tuesday's Red Sox-Rockies lineups: Shaw sits out for first time all year

BOSTON -- For the first time since last season, Travis Shaw is not in the Red Sox' lineup.

Shaw, suffering from a minor left-hand injury, will sit out Tuesday night's game against Colorado, snapping a string of 76 consecutive starts. Josh Rutledge will play third base in his place.

The lineups:

ROCKIES:
Charlie Blackmon CF
Trevor Story SS
Nolan Arenado 3B
Mark Reynolds 1B
Carlos Gonzalez RF
Ryan Raburn DH
Gerardo Parra LF
Dustin Garneau C
DJ LeMahieu 2B
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Jorge De La Rosa P

RED SOX:
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Chris Young LF
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Josh Rutledge 3B
Christian Vazquez C
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David Price P