Red Sox notes: Bard returns, team juggles younger players

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Red Sox notes: Bard returns, team juggles younger players

ANAHEIM -- Daniel Bard may be part of the Red Sox' bullpen again for the first time in almost three months, but don't expect to see him in high leverage situations -- at least not right away.
"Hopefully, I'll be able to pitch him when I want to, not when I have to,'' said Bobby Valentine.
Valentine added that he would "preferrably'' have Bard start innings, rather than come in the middle of an inning.
And, he hinted that Bard will have to earn his trust before he's handed the eighth inning in a one-run game.
"We have other guys who are slated, right now, to get the ball in a one-run game (late),'' said Valentine. "But that doesn't mean it's not going to be a tie game in extra innings or other things can happen down the line when these (other) guys aren't ready to pitch.''
Bard was optioned to Pawtucket after a disastrous June 3 outing in which he walked four and hit two others. He then endured a stretch at Pawtucket when it seemed as though he couldn't throw a strike.
But more recently, Bard has performed better. In his last three outings with the Pawsox before his return, he didn't walk a singlebatter.
Bard also believes some adjustments to his delivery, as well as a return to the bullpen where he'll only have to use his fastball and slider will help him show improved command.

Ryan Lavarnway was behind the plate for the final game of the series with the Angels, with Jarrod Saltalamacchia relegated to the DH role with David Ortiz sidelined.
Valentine is trying to juggle playing time for the two in the final month of the season.
"Salty's played like a champion,'' said Valentine. "Now that we can do the DH routine, I wouldn't mind seeing Lavarnway a little (behind the plate). I just don't want to see Salty rotting and not be appreciated for his great effort this year.
"Salty's probably going to catch real soon. Lavarnway's not going to catch every day.''
Valentine has the same concerns about shortstop Mike Aviles, who is having to share some playing time with Jose Iglesias.
The organization knows what Aviles and Saltalamacchia can do, and while there's an interest in evaluating younger players in the heat of battle, the established players shouldn't be forgotten.
"We've seen what they've done,'' said Valentine, "and now I don't want them to be punished by not having the opportunity to add to good seasons they've already had. (I don't want them) to sit down for a week or get one at-bat a game. It becomes difficult. I'm trying to do what's best for all situations.''

First impressions: Royals' five-run first inning dooms Red Sox in 6-3 loss

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First impressions: Royals' five-run first inning dooms Red Sox in 6-3 loss

First impressions from the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals:

 

Steven Wright recovered nicely after the first inning, but the damage was done.

Wright's last five innings featured just three hits allowed -- one in the infield. But the first inning did the Red Sox in -- two walks followed by a three-run homer, then a single and a two-run homer.

Whether this was a matter of rust for Wright -- who last pitched three weeks ago Friday night -- or an early inability to command his knuckleball is uncertain.

The fact is, Wright dug an early hole for his teammates, and he had the misfortune to do so against a team with the best bullpen in baseball.

To his credit, Wright kept the game somewhat within reach thereafter, but the five-run head start proved too much of a jump.

 

It's time to worry a little about Jackie Bradley.

Bradley was just 7-for-40 in the just-completed road trip, and things didn't get any better on the first night of the homestand.

In the first, he came up with two on and two out and struck out swinging to strand both baserunners. In the third, he came to the plate with runners on the corners and, again, struck out swinging.

We're seeing the same kind of slump that Bradley fell into in previous seasons, where even contact is hard to find, with nine strikeouts in the last 16 at-bats.

Problem is, with Andrew Benitendi on the DL, there aren't a lot of options for John Farrell with the Red Sox outfield.

 

Trying to get Fernando Abad and Junichi Tazawa back on track in low- leverage mop-up didn't work.

Tazawa had a perfect seventh, but gave up a monster shot into the center field bleachers to Lorenzo Cain to start the eighth.

Abad entered, and while he did record a couple of strikeouts, also gave up a single, a walk and threw a wild pitches before he could complete the inning.

Getting some work for the two was the right idea, given that the Sox were down by three runs at the time. A good outing might help either regain some confidence and turn the corner.

But not even that could be accomplished Friday night.