Bard comes back to earth in loss to Indians

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Bard comes back to earth in loss to Indians

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON If Red Sox manager Terry Francona knew he would be telling the future, he likely would have rethought his statement.

Daniel Bard entered Mondays game against the Indians at Fenway Park with a scoreless streak of 25 games spanning 26 13 innings, the longest active streak in the majors, behind only Cliff Lees 34-inning scoreless stretch this season. The last time Bard gave up a run was in the eighth inning on May 23 in Cleveland, a go-ahead RBI double to Asdrubal Cabrera. Bard ended up taking the loss in that game, also being charged with a blown save.

Before Mondays game, Francona said of Bards shut-down run:

He might not be on a run. He might just be really good.

Then Francona acknowledged the inevitable.

Hes going to give up a run at some point, Francona said.

He just didnt know how quickly those words would come to fruition.

Bard entered Mondays game with the score tied in the eighth inning. He gave up a single to the first batter, Jason Kipnis, bringing up Cabrera, who had homered off starter John Lackey in sixth. Cabrera took a 2-1 slider from Bard and tucked it just beyond the Pesky Pole in right field. The balls quirky carom ricocheting back to the field caused some initial confusion. The umpires reviewed the hit, with crew chief Gerry Davis emerging after a few minutes from the visitors dugout signaling a home run.

Bard then got Travis Hafner to ground out before walking Carlos Santana, ending Bards night. With the loss, his record falls to 1-5, while his ERA climbed from 1.76 to 2.28.

He needs to pick it up a little bit, Francona said after the 9-6 loss, tongue planted in cheek.

Hell be right thats why we took him out, so we can get him right back out there tomorrow, not waste his pitches when were down . . . He tried to get a slider under a lefty and didnt quite get it there.

Bards streak, a career high, was the longest by a Sox reliever since Bob Stanleys 27 13 innings without giving up a run from July 29 Sept. 1, 1980. Bards 25 scoreless outings set an all-time team high.

It had to end sometime, Bard said. I had a little bit of luck to get to this point. It went longer than I thought it would, I guess, but Im trying to help the team win. Tonight I didnt do that. But as far as the streak goes, lets start a new one tomorrow.

Bard watched Cabreras drive as it bounced back to the field. On slow-motion replay the ball appeared to hit off a fan in the right field corner.

I shouldnt have made that pitch, he said. From when I saw it in person it looked like it hit off the top of the wall and kicked back in. But I guess further review showed it hit off the ladys knee. It looked like they got it right. Its still a tough call. I looked at the replay and I think the rule is it has to be overwhelming conclusive evidence and it didn't look like that off the replay. Three hitters later they showed the ladys knee on replay and it had seams on it. But the rule says conclusive evidence to overturn it. It didnt look conclusive. The replay, even when they slowed it down frame by frame, it looked like it hit off the top of the wall. You couldnt tell.

They did get it right but I dont think they went about it the right way.

The irony that Cabrera would serve as the bookends for his streak was not lost on Bard.

"Well, he's a good hitter, Bard said. He hit a really good changeup last time for the RBI. He's just a good hitter. He makes adjustments. We pitched him the same way too many times and he made us pay."

Bard entered the night having allowed just 10 earned runs in 49 appearances this season. Four of the runs came in his first outing of the season, Opening Day in Texas in two-thirds of an inning. In his streak, he virtually dominated opponents, allowing just 11 hits and six walks with 25 strikeouts, holding opponents to a .125 batting average, .181 on-base percentage, and .148 slugging percentage. His teammates had begun to take that for granted.

Yeah, you kind of do, said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Those guys come in a game and you kind of feel like, Alright, this games under control. And most of the time it is. But with him I think he still goes out there every day. I dont think he even thinks about the scoreless streak and all that stuff. Tonight he still had good stuff. They just were able to do something.

Bards line: one-third of an inning, two hits, three runs, one walk, no strikeouts, one home run, 20 pitches, 14 for strikes. Uncharacteristic for him.

"The first two hits were, the fastball might've found a little bit of the plate with the first guy, but still not a bad pitch, Bard said. Kipnis did a good job of hitting that. And the pitch to Cabrera was, I thought, a pretty good pitch. But I shook to it, and I didn't realize Lackey had thrown him quite a few of those sliders down and in. I think he was sitting on that. So, we should've probably stayed hard him with there."

As Francona mentioned, it was going to happen. Still, with the streak Bard had been on, its surprising when it does.

Yeah, hes been great, Saltalamacchia said. Its very surprising but at the same time it happens. We go 0-for-4. Pitchers give up home runs. Pitchers give up runs. It happens. Its part of the game. I dont doubt hes going to come out tomorrow and throw again and shut them down.

For others, theres an easy explanation.

Hes human, said Adrian Gonzalez. Hes going to give up runs. Its going to happen. Thats all I can say: Hes human.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

As if there weren’t enough storylines with the 2017 Red Sox, there figures to be the lingering possibility that, at any point, one of the franchise’s greatest hitters will return to make a push for his fourth World Series title.

As Pedro Martinez keeps saying, he won’t believe David Ortiz is retired until season’s end.

And with that possibility comes a good ol’ fashioned sports debate: You’re maybe the biggest lunatic in the whole wide world if you’re hoping for the latter.

There are exactly two potential downsides to Ortiz coming back. One is that the team would be worse defensively if it puts Hanley Ramirez in the field, a tradeoff that seemingly anyone would take if it meant adding Ortiz’ offense to the middle of the order. The other is that we would probably have to see Kenan Thompson’s Ortiz impression again . . . which, come to think of it, would be the worst. Actually, I might kill myself if that happens.  

All the other drawbacks are varying degrees of noise. It basically boils down to the “what if he isn’t good?” fear. Which may be valid, but it shouldn’t be reason enough to not want him to attempt a comeback.

Ortiz is coming off a 38-homer, 127-RBI 2016 in which he hit .315 with a league-best 1.021 OPS. It's probably the best final season of any hitter over the last 50 years.

We also know Ortiz is 41 and dealt with ankle and heel injuries so vast in recent years that he was “playing on stumps,” according to Red Sox coordinator of sports medicine services Dan Dyrek. There is the possibility that he was almost literally on his last legs in 2016 and that he doesn’t have another great season in him.

Unless Ortiz is medically incapable and/or not interested in returning, what would the harm be in rolling the dice? Is it a money thing? It really depends on just how intent the Sox are on staying under the luxury-tax threshold, but it’s hard to imagine that holding them up given that they’ve bobbed over and under the line throughout the years.

The one unacceptable argument is the legacy stuff, which expresses concern that Ortiz would tarnish his overall body of work if he came back for one last season and was relatively ineffective.  

If you think that five years after Ortiz is done playing, a single person will say, “Yeah, he’s a Hall of Famer; it’s just a shame he came back that for one last season,” you’re absolutely crazy. The fact that one could dwell that much on a legacy shows how much they romanticize the player, meaning that in however many years it's the 40-homer seasons, and not the potentially underwhelming few months in 2017, that will stand the test of time.

But he’ll have thrown away having one of the best final seasons ever for a hitter.

Oh man. That’s a life-ruiner right there. A 10-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion totally becomes just another guy if you take that away.

Plus, the fact that he’s a DH limits how bad it could really be. You won’t get the sight of an over-the-hill Willie Mays misplaying fly balls in the 1973 World Series after hitting .211 in the regular season. Ortiz will either be able to hit or he won’t, and if it’s the latter they’ll chalk it up to age and injuries and sit him down. Any potential decision to put him on the field in a World Series would likely mean his bat was worth it enough to get them to that point.

The Red Sox, on paper at least, have a real shot at another title. Teams in such a position should always go for broke. Ortiz has absolutely nothing left to prove, but if he thinks he has anything left to give, nobody but the fans who dropped 30-something bucks on T-shirts commemorating his retirement should have a problem with that.

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

PHOENIX - Major League Baseball intends to push forward with the process that could lead to possible rule changes involving the strike zone, installation of pitch clocks and limits on trips to the pitcher's mound. While baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope the ongoing process would lead to an agreement, he said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Union head Tony Clark said last weekend he did not foresee players agreeing to proposed changes for 2017. Under baseball's collective bargaining agreement, management can alter playing rules only with agreement from the union - unless it gives one year notice. With the one year of notice, management can make changes on its own.

"Unfortunately it now appears that there really won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA," Manfred said Tuesday during a news conference. "I've tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, that it does not need to be fixed as some people have suggested, and I think last season was the kind of demonstration of the potential of our league to captivate the nation and of the game's unique place in American culture."

Yet, he also added: "I believe it's a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change."

Manfred said while he prefers an agreement, "I'm also not willing to walk away." He said he will send a letter to the union in the coming days and plans to continue dialogue with Clark and others in hopes of reaching agreement.

Clark met with Cactus League teams last week, five at a time over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, before departing Monday for Florida to visit each Grapefruit League club - and proposed rules changes were a topic.

"I have great respect for the labor relations process, and I have a pretty good track record for getting things done with the MLBPA," Manfred said. "I have to admit, however, that I am disappointed that we could not even get the MLBPA to agree to modest rule changes like limits on trips to the mound that have little effect on the competitive character of the game."

Clark saw talks differently.

"Unless your definition of `cooperation' is blanket approval, I don't agree that we've failed to cooperate with the commissioner's office on these issues," he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this offseason we've been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened. I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don't continue, notwithstanding today's comments about implementation. As I've said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open."

Clark added "my understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2-minute limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of game warning/fine adjustments."

Manfred said he didn't want to share specifics of his priorities for alterations.

"There's a variety of changes that can be undertaken," Manfred said. "I'm committed to the idea that we have a set of proposals out there and we continue to discuss those proposals in private."

MLB has studied whether to restore the lower edge of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level - at the top of the kneecap. Management would like to install 20-second pitch clocks in an attempt to speed the pace of play - they have been used at Triple-A and Double-A for the past two seasons.

Players also have been against limiting mound meetings. The least controversial change appears to be allowing a team to call for an intentional walk without the pitcher having to throw pitches. In addition, MLB likely can alter some video review rules without the union's agreement- such as shortening the time a manager has to call for a review.

"Most of this stuff that they were talking about I don't think it would have been a major adjustment for us," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Manfred said starting runners on second base in extra innings sounds unlikely to be implemented in the majors. The change will be experimented with during the World Baseball Classic and perhaps at some short-season Class A leagues. Manfred said it was a special-purpose rule "beneficial in developmental leagues."

Manfred also said Tuesday that a renovated Wrigley Field would be a great choice to host an All-Star Game and Las Vegas could be a "viable market for us."

"I don't think that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas should necessarily disqualify that market as a potential major league city," Manfred said.