Red Sox designate Bard for assignment

Red Sox designate Bard for assignment
September 1, 2013, 12:45 pm
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BOSTON -- Daniel Bard, a the 28th overall pick by the Red Sox in 2006, was once one of baseball’s most dominant set-up guys. Today he was designated for assignment. Between those two bookmarks to his career was a disastrous foray into starting pitching in 2012 from which he seemingly never recovered.
Bard was designated to make room on the 40-man roster for Quentin Berry, who was acquired earlier this week and in the clubhouse Sunday morning.
Other teams have 10 days to claim Bard, beginning in reverse order in the standings within the American League and then the National League. Houston would be the first team able to claim Bard. After 10 days, if no claim is made, Bard can rejoin the organization or a trade can be worked with any team. Despite his recent struggles, it would be surprising if a team does not claim him.
Bard pitched one inning for Low-A Lowell Saturday night. Facing six batters he walked four, struck out two, and threw a wild pitch without giving up a hit or a run.
“Not an easy one,” manager John Farrell said of the decision to designate Bard. “Daniel being designated for assignment, given what he’s been able to do in the past and obviously dealing with the struggles that with consistency, better there, unfortunately he’s in the position he’s in.
“If he’s still in the organization, which we would hope would be the case, unless some team either claims him or works out a trade for him, we haven't turned our back on him. And yet we needed a roster spot and we’re hopeful that we can get Daniel back on track to the pitcher that he was here at the big league level, which was a dominant one.”
Since 2009 Bard was among the AL relief leaders in strikeouts, opponents’ average, and slugging. In 2011, he was tied for the AL lead in holds with 34. He allowed just 14.7 percent of inherited runners to score, the fourth-lowest mark among AL relievers, and the second-best single-season mark by a Sox reliever since 1995 to Jonathan Papelbon’s 13.3 percent in 2008.
It was after Papelbon’s departure following the 2011 season that most thought Bard would take over the closer’s role. Instead, he attempted to join the starting rotation. It was a move that would precipitate all of Bard’s struggles from which he has yet to recover.
After 11 games, 10 starts, in 2012 Bard was demoted to Triple-A lugging a record of 5-6 and 5.24 ERA. That move was brought about by his June 3 outing in Toronto – with Farrell looking on from the home team dugout as manager of the Blue Jays. In that game, Bard lasted just 1 2/3 innings, giving up five runs on one hit, and six walks, with a home run, two strikeouts, and two hit batters.
Ultimately Bard was moved back to the bullpen last season. But he never recovered the form, confidence, or production he previously had.
He made just two appearances for the major league team this season, a total of one inning, giving up a run on one hit and two walks with a strikeout. He appeared in 16 minor league games this season combined between Double-A Portland, rookie level Gulf Coast, and Lowell. He threw 15 1/3 innings, posting a 6.46 ERA.
Bard and Farrell both began their Red Sox careers in the 2007 season. Farrell, who joined the team that season as pitching coach, knows Bard as well as he knows any pitcher in the Sox system. Which makes this decision so difficult, and so disappointing.
“The dynamic of that player-coach relationship that’s the human side of it, and I don’t know that you fully separate the two between the decision on a roster and the personal side of it,” Farrell said. “It’s frustrating for all of us and no less frustrating for Daniel to see the challenges that he’s been faced with, to see the attempts made to make adjustments. And it’s an ongoing battle right now.”
Bard was as a good a set-up guy as Farrell had seen.
“Yeah, and the weapon that he emerged as and the way [former Sox manager Terry Francona] had that flexibility of using him in that seventh or eighth inning, in many ways he had the tougher inning more so than the closer many nights,” Farrell said. “And to have that kind of power and that kind of ease with which he threw and the breaking ball that he had in addition to 98 to 101 [mph], whatever it ways. Yeah, for two years he was as good as there was in the game.”
Which always made the decision to move Bard out of the pen all the more curious. Many had assumed he would take over for Papelbon.
“I think everything pointed to that,” Farrell said. “The fact that there was a decision made, and I don’t’ know how that [came about], whether it was Daniel’s preference to start vs. close. It’s unfortunate that things didn’t continue on as they were with the late-inning and the performance that he had.”
Farrell began to work with Bard last offseason after being named manager.
“There was a combination of delivery issues that were being  ironed out and certainly confidence issues,” Farrell said. “And that’s where the question was: Which comes first? We felt like performance was going to lead to confidence. But I felt like in spring training there were some outings that were not far off to where he was previous, whether it was a year or two prior, and felt like as he was building a little momentum in spring training.  Felt like there was still one step yet left to make with him in terms of just the power and the consistency to it. It looked like he was on his way, unfortunately it didn’t happen.”
Bard began the season in Portland before he was sidelined to work out his issues.  He was eventually placed on the DL and attempted to work his way back, first with in Fort Myers with the rookie team, and then Saturday with Lowell.
Farrell had not yet spoken to Bard Sunday morning.
“I’m sure he was disappointed,” Farrell said. “I have not spoken to him personally. I know that he’s been notified as has his agent. And I think any time you achieve the level that he has and yet we’re in this situation not long after that, I’m sure there’s a lot of disappointment going on right now.”
It would be surprising if another team does not claim Bard. But, Farrell said, that’s not always the answer.
“It can help but to say that’s the sole reason, that would be wishful thinking,” Farrell said. “And you don’t want to just throw something to the wind that if I just change uniforms and change cities, then everything is going to be answered. That’s kind of running from the needs that are there.”