Bard delivers best performance as starter

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Bard delivers best performance as starter

CHICAGO -- Daniel Bard's last appearance as a starting pitcher was back on April 15, and since then, it seems like all of New England has been debating his role.

Moreover, Bard had a long layoff with a relief outing and a few side sessions mixed in.

But if there were any doubts as to how Bard would deal with his regular routine interrupted, he erased them with his performance. In what was clearly the best of his starts to date, Bard limited the Chicago White Sox to two earned runs in seven innings as the Red Sox win streak stretched to five straight with a 10-3 beating of the White Sox.

"As a reliever, you kind of learn to be flexible,'' said Bard, who earned his first win as a starter. "Sometimes, you threw the day before; sometimes, you haven't thrown in four or five days. You learn that your arm's going to feel a little bit different every time out and you just kind of learn to adjust.

"I guess that's the benefit I have, of having that experience as a reliever. I felt good today, physically.''

"I've been very impressed with his focus,'' said Bobby Valentine. "Those things (the skipped start, relief outing) could have gotten him mentally out of touch with his start tonight.''

Bard allowed a run in the first on two doubles, another in the third that was unearned after an error by Kevin Youkilis and an infield single off his hand. But over his final four innings of
work, he allowed just one baserunner -- Paul Konerko's solo homer with two out in the fifth. He retired 13 of the final 14 hitters he faced and manager Bobby Valentine said he would have been inclined to allow Bard to pitch a complete game had it not been so cold, and the Red Sox not provided him with some long innings in the dugout.

Bard got ahead with most hitters, changed speeds on his slider and made a mental adjustment that allowed him to have far better command. After walking seven in his last start, he walked just one hitter Friday.

"There are a few ticks in your delivery that you kind of find as the season goes on that allow you to kind of stay in check,'' said Bard. "I'd been missing high and to the arm side when I was tired, and now I have something that kind of locks me back in that I hadn't really incorporated before. It's just a little mental cue for me that I hadn't quite figured out the last couple of starts.''

"We've seen an evolution (in Bard as a starter),'' said Valentine. "The first time we looked at him, we worried whether he could have a windup. He got through the windup and we worried about (him having) a third pitch. He got through the third pitch, and we worried about his ability to go more than 60 pitches. He just keeps progressing.''

Boston pitchers strike out 14, but Red Sox still fall to Rays, 7-3

Boston pitchers strike out 14, but Red Sox still fall to Rays, 7-3

The appearance of Tampa Bay Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough almost got the Boston Red Sox back in their spring training exhibition game. The Sox managed to score all three of their runs against the 25-year-old in their 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida on Sunday.

But the Rays, who scored runs in five different innings, managed to widen their lead in the eighth inning by beating up on Sox lefty Luis Isla, a 24-year-old who spent last season with Portland and Pawtucket. In the eighth, Rays' Joe McCarthy homered and Luke Maile managed an RBI single, which cappped off the scoring in the contest. Sox starter Hector Velazquez allowed three hits and an earned run in his two innnings. The 28-year-old, who spent 2016 in the Mexican League, still managed to amass four strikeouts.

"I was a little nervous at the start, being in the United States for the first time and playing for a big league club for the first time," Velazquez told RedSox.com through an interpreter. "But once I got the first out, all the nerves went away, and I was able to bear down."

Despite allowing two homers, Boston pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts.

With the exception of the Sox' inning against Yarbrough, Boston's veterans and prospects struggled mighltily against the Rays pitching staff. Chris Archer started for Tampa, and set the tone in the first two innings, where he threw two strikeouts, one walk and allowed one hit and no runs. Andrew Benintendi (0-for-3), Sam Travis (0-for-2) and Bryce Brentz (0-for-3) went hitless on the day. Travis, however, reached base on balls.

"I felt good. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish," Archer said, via the Red Sox' team website. "Just out there having fun, it was really fun to be out there in the spectrum with the umpire, the fans, the batter. It was fun."

Marco Hernandez's triple got the Sox' eighth-inning off to a strong start, and singles from Matt Dominguez, Deven Marrero, Rusney Castillo and Cole Sturgeon followed. The Sox' eighth inning scoring ended after Castillo got thrown out by left fielder McCarthy at third. Six Red Sox finished with one-hit outings, including Brock Holt and Blake Swihart.

The Sox will next host the St. Louis Cardinals in Fort Myers on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET.