PROVIDENCE Red Sox manager John Farrell will be hopscotching southern states this weekend, hoping to see a few of his players. On Friday, he will travel to Dallas to see John Lackey and Will Middlebrooks. On Saturday, he will go to the teams spring training complex in Fort Myers, where left-handers Felix Doubront and Franklin Morales are among the early arrivals.But it is perhaps his trip on Sunday to Mississippi, with new pitching coach Juan Nieves, that could answer many questions for the Sox.Farrell and Nieves will watch right-hander Daniel Bard throw. It will be the first time Bard will be throwing from a mound this offseason.Farrell saw from afar the effects of Bards disastrous foray into starting pitching last season. It was Bards meltdown in Toronto in June, with Farrell managing in the home teams dugout, that resulted in Bard being demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket, lugging a record of 5-6 with a 5.24 ERA. Farrell has talked with Bard frequently this offseason and has watched video of the right-hander who had been one of baseballs top set-up men prior to 2012.Theres some changes you can identify there, Farrell said. And in talking with Daniel the most encouraging thing in a situation like this is that hes aware of the changes that have taken place. Now unwinding those changes and getting him back to the basics, and when I say basics of what hes demonstrated previously and the strengths that he has, I think most importantly hes got a clear view of where that needs to settle in from, not only from a delivery standpoint but from an aggressive simplified approach.And I think as a starter last year he tried to manipulate the ball a little bit too much, maybe be a little bit too fine in ways where he was trying to induce a ground ball a lot rather than staying with that aggressive approach that has made him successful in Boston.In their talks this offseason, Farrell has noticed a change.If I were to map it out, and actually tell him its gotten better the deeper weve gotten in the offseason, Farrell said. And I think as hes picked up a ball and gotten back into the throwing program hes felt somethings naturally come back to him, particularly his arm slot.Im not going to say time cures all. Thats not, were not just going to put his challenges aside and pretend that they didnt happen. But I think as hes gotten further away from it hes had a fresh outlook to this. The workouts hes gone through this offseason have been very consistent and strong and just the tone and confidence from which he speaks from is another step in the right direction. Thatll all be solidified as he commands a baseball in spring training and starts to get some tangible results once he steps on a mound.
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