Bard ready to move on from 2012

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Bard ready to move on from 2012

FORT MYERS, Fla. Daniel Bard is looking forward to the day when every bullpen session is not monitored, every pitch examined, every nuance analyzed and overanalyzed, and he can be just another reliever in the bullpen. But after his dismal foray into starting pitching last season, that day has not yet arrived.

Bard threw his first live batting practice session on Saturday. It was his third time pitching off a mound in Red Sox camp, and he was satisfied with his outing.

It felt good, Bard said after his outing. Just trying to work the kinks out. It takes a few pitches to get used to having the cages around the plate and the L-screen in front of the mound. But once you kind of settle in, it felt good.

That was a feeling that eluded Bard last year. In 11 games, 10 starts, in the first half Bard posted a record of 5-6 with a 5.24 era. It was his disastrous outing on June 3 in Toronto that signaled the death knell for his career as a starter. He went 1 23 innings, giving up five runs on one hit, a home run, and six walks, two strikeouts and two hit batters. He was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket after that, his psyche badly bruised.

Bard returned to the big league team on Aug. 31, making six appearances, spanning 4 13 innings, allowing nine earned runs on eight hits, three home runs, six walks and four strikeouts.

It was frustrating, he said. Trying to do what youve done your whole life and what youve been really good at, and for some reason things just arent clicking. I dont think anybody could quite put a really good explanation on it. I think it was just a combination of things, getting in some bad habits, and I had a hard time getting out of them.

I think the best thing for me was two or three months off after the season, let those habits go away. The first time you pick up a ball in the offseason, youre relearning how to throw and find that release point anyway. So thats kind of how it is. Just starting a new season, Im excited. Im looking forward to it. The past is the past. Im going to go on how I feel on a day to day basis.

Manager John Farrell was the Sox pitching coach from 2007-10 and saw Bard make his big league debut in 2009, becoming a dominant set-up man in 2010, when Bard posted a 1.93 era with a 9.2 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio in 73 appearances. Farrell was also satisfied with Bards outing.

Just getting consistent with his timing, Farrell said. I thought he had a good feel for his secondary pitches. Its BP. I dont want to overanalyze it too much, but repetition on the mound, seeing a hitter in the box.

The one point of emphasis that he was trying to get done was not to guide the ball. Stay aggressive even in early BP and bullpen sessions, and hes doing just that.

Bard believes hes resolved some of the issues that plagued him last season.

The balls coming out of my hand free and easy, he said. I couldnt say that for the first or the second half of last season, so thats it. Its just letting the ball come out and trusting it. So I feel good now.

And that, in itself, is a good feeling.

I know I keep repeating this, but it feels good coming out, and I couldnt even say that playing catch or throwing in the bullpen last year, he said. So to be able to do that, having a hitter in the box today, getting some reactions there, it was a good start. And once you get into some real games and really get some feedback on what the balls doing.

Farrell has noticed Bards improved confidence, too.

Consistent with the way he described what he was feeling, how he was thinking in terms of looking back on last year, and the outlook on camp, and what he was trying to get done on the mound, Farrell said. And thats pitching with that aggressiveness, pitching with that shorter-outing mentality, rather than be efficient and work deeper into games that led into potentially guiding the ball from the mound. And hes showing that. Thats the mindset that hes got here. And yet hes got to be patient. His bodys going to have to catch up with that mentality in terms of the timing in his delivery and thats what hes going through right now.

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Chris Sale brings with him to Boston some attitude. He also brings a measure of defiance and, perhaps, a little bit of crazy.

All of which the Red Sox starting staff just may need. And if Sale pitches as he has for much of the past five years, he'll probably be celebrated for it.

I still wonder how it will all play here, especially if he underachieves.

What would we do to him locally if he refused to pitch because he didn't like a certain kind of uniform variation the team was going with? What would we say if he not only refused to pitch, but took a knife to his teammates' uniforms and the team had to scrap the promotion? Sale did exactly that in Chicago last year, after which he threw his manager under the bus for not standing by his players and attacked the team for putting business ahead of winning.

All because he didn't want to wear an untucked jersey?

"(The White Sox throwback uniforms) are uncomfortable and unorthodox,'' said Sale at the time. "I didn't want to go out there and not be at the top of my game in every aspect that I need to be in. Not only that, but I didn't want anything to alter my mechanics. ... There's a lot of different things that went into it.''

Wearing a throwback jersey would alter his mechanics? Was that a joke? It's hard to imagine he would get away with that in Boston.

Ditto for his support of Adam LaRoche and his involvement of that goofy story last March.
 
LaRoche, you'll remember, retired when the White Sox had the nerve to tell him that his 14-year-old son could not spend as much time around the team as he had grown accustomed to. Sale responded by pitching a fit.

“We got bald-face lied to by someone we’re supposed to be able to trust,'' said Sale of team president Kenny Williams. ``You can’t come tell the players it was the coaches and then tell the coaches it was the players, and then come in and say something completely different. If we’re all here to win a championship, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen.”

On what planet does allowing a 14-year-old kid in a clubhouse have anything to do with winning a title? In what universe does a throwback jersey have anything to do with mechanics? If David Price had said things that stupid last year, he'd still be hearing about it. And it won't be any different for Sale.

Thankfully, Sale's defiance and feistiness extends to the mound. Sale isn't afraid to pitch inside and protect his teammates, leading the American League in hit batsmen each of the last two years. He doesn't back down and loves a fight. And while that makes him sound a little goofy off the field, it should play well on it.

In the meantime, the Sox better hope he likes those red alternate jerseys they wear on Fridays.

E-mail Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast appears daily on CSN.

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Chris Sale had been the subject of so many trade rumors for the past year that he admitted feeling somewhat like "the monkey in the middle.”

On Tuesday, the rumors became reality when Sale learned he was being shipped to the Red Sox in exchange for a package of four prospects.
    
It meant leaving the Chicago White Sox, the only organization he'd known after being drafted 13th overall by Chicago in 2010. Leaving, he said, is "bittersweet.''
     
Now, he can finally move forward.
     
"Just to have the whole process out of the way and get back to some kind of normalcy will be nice,” said Sale Wednesday morning in a conference call with reporters.

Sale had been linked in trade talks to many clubs, most notably the Washington Nationals, who seemed poised to obtain him as recently as Monday night.

Instead, Sale has changed his Sox from White to Red.

"I'm excited,” he said. "You're talking about one of the greatest franchises ever. I'm excited as anybody. I don't know how you couldn't be. I've always loved going to Boston, pitching in Boston. (My wife and I) both really like the city and (Fenway Park) is a very special place.”
     
It helps that Sale lives in Naples, Fla., just 20 or so miles from Fort Myers, the Red Sox' spring training base. Sale played his college ball at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.
     
"Being able to stay in our house a couple of (more) months,” gushed Sale, “it couldn't have worked out better personally or professionally for us.”
     
Sale joins a rotation with two Cy Young Award winners (David Price and reigning winner Rick Porcello), a talented core of mostly younger position players and an improved bullpen.

"There's no reason not to be excited right now,” said Sale. "You look at the talent on this team as a whole... you can't ask for much more.”

Sale was in contact with Price Tuesday, who was the first Red Sox player to reach out. He also spoke with some mutual friends of Porcello.

That three-headed monster will carry the rotation, and the internal competition could lift them all to new heights.
     
"The good thing in all of this,'' Sale said, "is that I can definitely see a competition (with) all of us pushing each others, trying to be better. No matter who's pitching on a (given) night, we have as good or better chance the next night. That relieves some of the pressure that might build on some guys (who feel the need to carry the team every start).”

But Sale isn't the least bit interested in being known as the ace of the talented trio.

"I don’t think that matters,” he said. "When you have a group of guys who come together and fight for the same purpose, nothing else really matters. We play for a trophy, not a tag.”

Sale predicted he would be able to transition from Chicago to Boston without much effort, and didn't seem overwhelmed by moving to a market where media coverage and fan interest will result in more scrutiny.

"It's fine, it's a part of it, it's reality,” he said. "I'm not a big media guy. I'm not on Twitter. I'm really focused on the in-between-the-lines stuff. That's what I love, playing the game of baseball. Everything else will shake out.”

After playing before small crowds and in the shadow of the  Cubs in Chicago, Sale is ready to pitch before sellout crowds at Fenway.

"I'm a firm believer that energy can be created in ballparks,” he said. "I don't think there’s any question about it. When you have a packed house and everyone's on their feet in the eighth inning, that gives every player a jolt.”