FORT MYERS, Fla. – After his disastrous 2012 season, Daniel Bard spent much of this offseason not thinking about baseball. Still, he was looking forward to getting on the mound for his first game situation.
He did that Thursday, pitching a scoreless inning in Thursday afternoon’s 3-0 win over Northeastern. He gave up one hit with three strikeouts, and threw 13 of his 18 pitches for strikes.
“I’m satisfied,” he said. “Not perfect obviously, but it’s a huge step in the right direction. It’s always good to get out the gate with some good results. So that was focus today, try to be in the zone as much as possible. I threw [fastball and slider] for strikes and then go from there.”
After last season, Bard knows he has something to prove.
“For sure,” he said. “I think that’s a good thing, though. The last time I really came into camp with something to prove was my first big-league spring training in ’09. I was not supposed to make the team by any means, but I had a lot of people I [felt I] needed to impress . . . And I was able to come out and do that, and win a spot about a month later in the bullpen. So it’s not that much different this year.
"Besides that, everyone here knows my name and knows who I am. But I definitely have something to prove.”
And while Northeastern’s batters are not of the caliber he will be facing from here on, it helped to face batters in a competitive situation.
“It’s nice to have guys up there taking hacks,” he said. “And for me, you’re just trying to get a gauge of where you’re at. If you’re around the zone, they’re going to be hacking and they were doing today.”
One of the main goals of this spring will be for Bard to regain his confidence and his aggressiveness.
“We went from a guy that was ultra-aggressive, ultra-confident, to one that with the change in role [last season] came the change in mindset,” said manager John Farrell. “And we’re getting back to that shorter stints, the aggressive mentality. I know that’s something that he set out to not only establish, but to regains and prove. And today was the first step in that process.
“It’s collectively our job to get him back to that level.”
And, while it’s a work in process, and it’s still early in spring training, Farrell has seen progress.
“In conversation and in side work, in his BP, yeah,” Farrell said. “I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight. The one thing that we want to do is establish the aggressiveness first and then if we have to make some adjustments to gain more consistent command, that might be the case. But first step is more for the mentality side of things.”
Bard mixed fastballs and sliders in his brief outing.
“At times, he leveraged [the fastball] downhill, his delivery was on time,” Farrell said. “There were other times where you could see him come off a pitch where it would run up and in to a right-hander. But not totally unexpected.
“[The slider] gets his hand back on top of the baseball. when he feels a fastball run away from his arm side then that’s a pitch that he routinely might go to just to get his release point back in a consistent spot to command a baseball. but it’s just about establishing that aggressive mentality.”
For Bard, regaining his confidence to challenge hitters will be a focus this spring.
“I think so,” he said. “I think I’m a better pitcher when I’m goal oriented. At the same time, you don’t want to get too wrapped up in results because as a short reliever sometimes you can throw the ball great and have bad results, and vice-versa. So I focus on the task, the process. But at the same time my goal is to get outs. That’s why I broke out the slider pretty early today. I’m at my best when I’m focused on the competition at hand.”