Converting Bard to starter will be no easy task

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Converting Bard to starter will be no easy task

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."

Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Former major leaguer Andy Marte, a one-time top prospect in the Red Sox organization, was killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic on Sunday. He was 33.

Marte was killed the same day that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Ventura was 25. Coincidentally, Ventura was the Royals starting pitcher in Marte's final major league game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014.

Marte, drafted by the Braves in 2000, was ranked the No. 9 prospect in baseball in 2005 when the third baseman was traded to the Red Sox as part of the deal that sent shortstop Edgar Renteria to Atlanta and Marte became the top-ranked prospect in the Red Sox organization.  

Marte was traded by the Red Sox to the Indians in 2006 in the deal that sent Coco Crisp to Boston and spent five seasons with Cleveland. His best season was 2009 (.232, six home runs, 25 RBI in 47 games). After a six-game stint with Arizona in 2014, he played in South Korea the past two years.  

Metropolitan traffic authorities in the Dominican told the Associated Press that Marte died when a car he was driving his a house along the highway between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.
 

Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car crash in in the Dominican Republic on Sunday morning, according to multiple reports. Ventura was 25 years old.

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo told the Associated Press that Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Santo Domingo. He says it's not clear if Ventura was driving.

Ventura was killed the same day former major leaguer Andy Marte died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Coincidentally, Ventura was the starting pitcher in Marte's final MLB game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014. 

Ventura was 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA for the Royals' 2015 World Series champions and 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 starts in 2016. The right-hander made his major league debut in 2013 and in 2014 went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA for Kansas City's A.L. pennant winners. 

Ironically, Ventura paid tribute to his good friend and fellow Dominican, Oscar Tavares, who was also killed in a car crash in the D.R. in October 2014, by wearing Tavares' initials and R.I.P. on his cap before Ventura's start in Game 6 of the World Series in 2014. 

Ventura is the second current major league player to die in the past five months. Former Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in Miami on Sept. 25.