PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – Daniel Bard threw a scoreless inning in Monday’s 6-3 loss to the Rays, although he struggled with command.
Bard entered in the fifth inning and faced four batters, throwing 16 pitches, eight for strikes. He gave up one walk, with a strikeout and he hit a batter. Bard stayed with his fastball-slider combination, with his fastball mostly in the 93-94 mph range.
He struck out his first batter, Hak-Ju Lee, on four pitches, getting the swinging strikeout on an 82 mph slider. Bard hit Leslie Anderson with a slider, then walked Luke Scott on seven pitches, the first five of which were fastballs. But with runners on first and second, Bard got Sean Rodriguez to line into a double play to end the inning.
Bard knows he is a work in progress, as he tries to make his way back from his horrendous 2012 season.
“I think overall I would say it was better,” he said of his outing. “It’s still just working hard to get on top of every pitch. I have a little bit of a tendency to get a little rotational. That’s when you see some of those errant ones. But for the most part mechanics feel good. I think that one, just that one little thing, get my hand keeping on top of the ball and driving down through the zone.
“It’s a small thing but it takes a lot of reps to get it right. It’s just, had some bad habits built up from last year and corrected most of them, and that’s just the one thing we’re working on. I feel good. I feel like I can finally trust myself with throwing the ball where I want to and just attacking guys.”
Catcher David Ross was pleased with what he saw from Bard.
“Really good,” Ross said. “I caught him the other day in that college start and he even looked better. There was a couple times, we talked and he said he felt like he was getting under the ball. But I thought he looked really well.”
But Bard struggled with his command, on both his fastball and slider.
“Bard had natural cutting action on the fastball, with well-below-average command,” said one scout in attendance. “He was underneath the ball too often. He had a sharp slider that he stopped using after he hit a batter.”
Bard is confident his command will return as he adjusts to his improved mechanics, just as he is confident the velocity on his fastball will return to the upper 90s where it was before his unfortunate foray into starting pitching.
“I think so,” he said. “I think there’s probably three or four miles an hour just in a having a little better finish on top of the ball, backspinning the ball. And it’s close. I’m doing it certain pitches and not others. When that last bit of mechanics becomes consistent I feel good about where it’s headed.”
And knowing he can put batters away will be a much-needed boost to his confidence.
“It’s huge,” he said. “Just to get out there and feel like I’m used to feeling on the mound, it’s a good feeling. I use the word 'feel' a lot. That’s kind of what it’s all about, is having that feel out there. Confident right now. I feel like I can get anybody out in the box. It’s just that last little bit of consistency. But the mentality and focus has definitely been good.”
And that alone is an improvement over last season.