Converting Bard to starter will be no easy task

Converting Bard to starter will be no easy task
December 8, 2011, 2:47 am
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DALLAS -- Around baseball, it's become a trend: relievers being converted into starters.

The Texas Rangers, two-time defending American League champions, plan on moving Neftali Feliz, their closer, into the rotation while using newly-signed Joe Nathan to close.

The Rangers know their way around the process, having converted both C.J. Wilson and Alexi Ogando from relievers into starters in previous seasons. The Baltimore Orioles are planning on doing the same with Joe Johnson.

And now the Red Sox are contemplating the switch, too, with Daniel Bard.

But the move comes with some risks and challenges.

With Bard, the Sox must first be assured that he can make the transition successfully. Further, they have to have another candidate in mind who can handle the high-leverage set-up innings that Bard has locked down the last two seasons.

As a late-inning reliever, Bard has had the luxury of relying on just two overpowering pitches: his fastball and slider. To succeed as a starter and face the same hitters three times in the same game, he'll need to master a third pitch.

"He's got a changeup that's been good," said Red Sox GM Ben Cherington. "He's been in situations at times where he really hasn't needed to use it. There have been outings where he has used it and it's been really good. Certainly the reps that you get as a starter in spring training and the time in between give him a chance to work on that more.

"He certainly has a lot of the characteristics we think that go into making a good starter, but most importantly, his mindset is in a good place. He's prepared to do this and also prepared to pitch in a different role if that's what the team needs."

Bard isn't the only Red Sox reliever who could switch jobs in 2012. Alfredo Aceves, who made 51 of his 55 appearances out of the bullpen, could also be used in the rotation.

The prospect of having two pitchers on the same staff increase their workload dramatically in the same year could put a strain on the staff and is something the Red Sox have to weigh.

"It's something that's part of the calculus, certainly," agreed Cherington, "figuring out how the entire pitching staff works. It's not just: Can they do it from a talent standpoint? But it's (also) 'here's the innings that we have to fill over the course of a 162-game season and do we have enough to fill it.

"There are guys who have done it. C.J. Wilson did. Texas has done that a couple of times now. We think that those two guys could have a chance to do it. They keep themselves in really good shape and they're going to prepare well and they're talented. But it's certainly a factor."