Bard's control issue out of control

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Bard's control issue out of control

PHILADELPHIA -- It didn't take long for Daniel Bard's outing to head in the wrong direction.

On the sixth pitch of his start Friday night, with a full count to Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, Bard, against his own better judgement, elected to throw Rollins a slider.

The pitch missed, Rollins walked and the inning soon unraveled for Bard. He would walk three of the first four hitters he faced, leading to a big 4-0 inning, from which the Sox couldn't rebound in a 6-4 loss at Citizens Bank Park.

Needing 33 pitches just to get out of the first, Bard would be done after five. He walked five, hit two others and finds himself still struggling in the transition from reliever to starter.

But whether in the bullpen or in the rotation, Bard's command is the biggest issue. He's walked 13 in his last three starts, spanning 18 innings, earning a rebuke from his manager.

"He didn't have his control in the first inning tonight...obviously,'' said Valentine. "The walks, they're not acceptable. That amount of walks...you can't leave your team out there and you can't be letting those guys get on base.

"He's tough to hit in the strike zone. Might as well throw it in there.''

Bard said the problem in the first was initially a physical one, but was then compounded by a mental mistake.

"When you get out of your delivery a little bit,'' said Bard, 3-5, "the best thing to do is kind of step off, take a breath and kind of hit the re-set button. I never did that. I tried to power through it a little bit. You can't do that, especially early in the game.

"It was probably something that should have listed two or three pitches (with a mechanical issue) and it ended up lasting 12-15 pitches. That's my fault. I didn't handle it well.''

In seven starts to date, Bard has had just three quality starts. And in one of those -- a 1-0 loss to Tampa Bay on Patriots Day -- Bard walked seven Rays, including one to force in the winning run with the bases loaded.

The Sox eventually clawed back on the strength of three solo homers and a sacrifice fly and brought the potential tying run to the plate in both the eighth and ninth innings.

But they could never overcome what Bard had spotted the home team in the very first inning.

"This loss is definitely on me,'' he said. "A 4-0 deficit in the first is pretty tough to overcome.''

Bard said the "kink'' in his delivery happens to the most experienced starters.

"It's going to happen,'' he said. "But it's how you respond and how quickly you can get to pounding the zone is kind of what defines you as a pitcher. Today, it took me too long to get back into it.''

In the future, Bard said, he'll take his time and assess what he needs to do, rather than trying to fight his way through the issue.

"It's just a matter of going back to what works,'' he said. "But my mistake was trying to power through it, thinking that the next (pitch) was going to be better and better.''

Instead, things got worse and worse for Bard and the Sox, and the deficit proved to be too much.

Also troubling: Bard has now walked 15 while striking out nine in his last four outings. For someone with a mid-to-high 90s fastball and a overpowering slider, that seems incomprehensible.

Again, the issue is command.

"I'm not getting myself in good counts -- it's as simple as that,'' said Bard. "When I start to establish 'strike one' more consistently, that will all come back.''

Pedro Martinez to WEEI: Ortiz will make comeback this season

Pedro Martinez to WEEI: Ortiz will make comeback this season

Never say never?

While Red Sox officials said at the team's annual Winter Weekend at Foxwoods on Saturday that they'd be traveling to the Dominican Republic to talk to David Ortiz about a role with the team, Pedro Martinez told WEEI he sees Big Papi returning to his old role - designated hitter - this season.

CSN's Trenni Kusnierek and WEEI's John Tomase talked to Martinez on their show Saturday at Foxwoods and Martinez said his old teammate would be making a comeback despite the long, emotional farewell tour last season. 

For the full interview with Martinez, click here.

Red Sox executives Tom Werner, Sam Kennedy and Dave Dombrowski made no mention of Ortiz returning as a player when talking about their Dominican trip. Ortiz has repeatedly said he is going to stay retired. 

Chris Sale on leaving White Sox: 'Time for both sides to do something different, I guess'

Chris Sale on leaving White Sox: 'Time for both sides to do something different, I guess'

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- While there’s a deal of anticipation going into Spring training with the four Killer B’s, David Price and Pablo Sandoval’s shot at redemption and Rick Porcello looking to be something similar to his 2016 self, there’s one name that trumps them all.

Chris Sale.

The lankly lefty received an ovation from fans at the Friday night Town Hall, kicking off Red Sox Winter Weekend. With his consistent success, there’s reason to be excited.

But there’s also reason for apprehension given the way Sale’s departure from Chicago was depicted. But he’s made sure to clear the air.

“I wouldn’t say . . . ya know . . . I loved my time in Chicago,” Sale said when asked if it was time to leave the Windy City. “My best baseball memories are there [and] will be there forever. I love the city; I love the people in the organization.

“It was time for both sides to do something different, I guess. I talked to (White Sox Senior V.P.) Rick on the phone, I talked to (White Sox pitching coach Don) Coop (Cooper). We’re all cool, it’s fine. We understand where both of us are, it happens in baseball, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Chicago.”

He didn’t seem irritated discussing the issue, and certainly wasn’t timid -- we all know that’s not in his DNA.

He genuinely seems excited to deal with the large sum of Sox fans and to call a new place home -- in a city his wife’s fond of no less.

But ultimately, he’s focused on winning, nothing else.

“Every time I’m out there it’s gonna be all I got,” Sale said. "Every time, no matter what. Can promise you that.”