Bard welcomes additions to Red Sox bullpen

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Bard welcomes additions to Red Sox bullpen

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The signings of free agent relievers Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler might make some in the Red Sox bullpen nervous.

But not Daniel Bard.

Bard welcomes the acquisitions, viewing them as reinforcements rather than competition.

"It's awesome," Bard said Wednesday. "I'm excited about it. It's nice to have more help down there than we had last year. I think we have some veteran guys in. That's kind of what I felt we needed down there -- some guys who you kind of know what you're going to get out of them. They've proven themselves over the last five or six years. I'm excited about it.

"It doesn't affect the way I'm going to approach anything. Maybe it will lighten the load a little bit, especially in the eighth inning, we'll have some more quality arms to go with. Even if we cut down my appearances by five, that's huge when it comes down to September and October. I think those guys are definitely going to be able to do that."

Bard emphasized that, despite a staff-high 73 appearances last year, he wasn't worn down at the end of last season.

"I actually felt good," Bard said. "There was no pain whatsoever. My body felt good. There were days when you're just a little stiff. I didn't know how I would handle that workload. I'd thrown more innings before, but that was by far the most appearances I had. But I felt good overall and I bounced back this offseason."

Even with the arrival of Jenks, Bard doesn't expect his job description will change.

"I haven't talked to anybody about my role," he said, "but I don't see it changing a whole lot. Maybe the situations like last year when I was coming in with one out or two outs in the seventh and throwing an inning plus -- that kind of wears on you throughout a season, sitting down and getting back up.

"I think the biggest plus of having Jenks here is a chance to break that up. We can both get two outs or three outs, or whatever it takes to fill that seventh or eighth inning gap to get to our closer."

In his first full season in the majors last year, Bard was among the best set-up relievers in the game, posting a 1.93 ERA while allowing just 45 hits in 74 23 innings.

"I want to build on what I did last year," said Bard. "I don't have anything big or exciting as far as developing a new pitch. I just want to build on last season."

Bard is expected to share the set-up duty with Jenks, who served as the White Sox closer for most of the last six seasons. Jenks will have some adjustments to make going from the ninth inning to the seventh or eighth, but Bard believes the intensity of pitching in Fenway could ease the transition.

"There may be an adjustment period," said Bard. "He pitched in a pretty big market, but I don't think it quite compares to the meaningfulness of the games here. He's pitched in the World Series, but I think that first time he comes out, with that crowd at Fenway, it's not going to matter if he's pitching in the fourth inning or the ninth.

"I think he'll do fine. He's a competitive guy with great stuff. He wouldn't have come here if he wasn't willing to do it, knowing who we had in place. I don't see it being an issue for him."

Bard also has confidence that closer Jonathan Papelbon will put the disappointment of 2010 behind him.

"I'm not too worried about him," said Bard. "He was still throwing 96-98 mph at the end of the year. I think he's going to right back where he was a couple of years ago. I know his mindset hasn't changed. You can say he has the added motivation of it being the last year of his contract, so he's got a lot of things working in his favor."

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

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Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

BOSTON - David Ortiz became one of the most celebrated players in Red Sox history during his storied 14-year run in Boston.

On the night he returned to Fenway to have his No. 34 take its place among the franchise's other legends, his former teammates did their part to make sure it was a memorable one.

Hanley Ramirez and Sandy Leon hit two-run homers and the Boston Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels 9-4 on Friday to cap a night in which Ortiz's number became the latest retired at Fenway Park.

It was the 250th career home run for Ramirez, a good friend of Ortiz who was also born in the Dominican Republic. Leon finished with three hits and four RBIs.

Ramirez said he played with Ortiz on his mind.

"He's my mentor, my big brother. He's everything," Ramirez said. "Today when I saw him on the field crying, it made me cry."

He said his home run was in Big Papi's honor.

"Definitely, definitely, definitely," he said. "I was going to do his thing (pointing his hands in the air) but I forgot."

The homers helped provide a nice cushion for Rick Porcello (4-9), who gave up four runs and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings to earn the victory. It was the 13th straight start Porcello has gone at least six innings.

"It was vintage Porcello," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "A couple of pitches that cut his night short, but he was crisp throughout."

This could serve as a needed confidence boost for Porcello, who had been 0-4 with a 7.92 ERA in his previous five starts, allowing 47 hits and 27 earned runs.

He had command of his pitches early, holding the Angels scoreless until the fourth, when a catching error by Leon at home allowed Albert Pujols to cross the plate.

Porcello said he isn't sure if he has completely turned a corner yet after his slow start, but he has felt better in his recent starts.

"Today was a step in the right direction," he said.

Alex Meyer (3-4) allowed five runs and five hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Los Angeles scored three runs in the seventh, but cooled off after Porcello left.

Boston got out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, scoring on an RBI double by Xander Bogaerts and then getting two more runs off wild pitches by Meyer.

Ramirez gave Porcello a 5-1 lead in the fourth with his two-run shot to right field.

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

BOSTON —  The Red Sox have become well known for their ceremonies, for their pull-out-all-the-stops approach to pomp. The retirement of David Ortiz’s No. 34 on Friday evening was in one way, then, typical.

A red banner covered up Ortiz’s No. 34 in right field, on the facade of the grandstand, until it was dropped down as Ortiz, his family, Red Sox ownership and others who have been immortalized in Fenway lore looked on. Carl Yazstremski and Jim Rice, Wade Boggs and Pedro Martinez. 

The half-hour long tribute further guaranteed permanence to a baseball icon whose permanence in the city and the sport was never in doubt. But the moments that made Friday actually feel special, rather than expected, were stripped down and quick. 

Dustin Pedroia’s not one to belabor many points, never been the most effusive guy around. (He’d probably do well on a newspaper deadline.) The second baseman spoke right before Ortiz took to the podium behind the mound.

“We want to thank you for not the clutch hits, the 500 home runs, we want to thank you for how you made us feel and it’s love,” Pedroia said, with No. 34 painted into both on-deck circles and cut into the grass in center field. “And you’re not our teammate, you’re not our friend, you’re our family. … Thank you, we love you.”

Those words were enough for Ortiz to have tears in his eyes.

“Little guy made me cry,” Ortiz said, wiping his hands across his face. “I feel so grateful. I thank God every day for giving me the opportunity to have the career that I have. But I thank God even more for giving me the family and what I came from, who teach me how to try to do everything the right way. Nothing — not money — nothing is better than socializing with the people that are around you, get familiar with, show them love, every single day. It’s honor to get to see my number …. I remember hitting batting practice on this field, I always was trying to hit those numbers.”

Now that’s a poignant image for a left-handed slugger at Fenway Park.

He did it once, he said — hit the numbers. He wasn’t sure when. Somewhere in 2011-13, he estimated — but he said he hit Bobby Doerr’s No. 1.

“It was a good day to hit during batting practice,” Ortiz remembered afterward in a press conference. “But to be honest with you, I never thought I’d have a chance to hit the ball out there. It’s pretty far. My comment based on those numbers was, like, I started just getting behind the history of this organization. Those guys, those numbers have a lot of good baseball in them. It takes special people to do special things and at the end of the day have their number retired up there, so that happening to me today, it’s a super honor to be up there, hanging with those guys.”

The day was all about his number, ultimately, and his number took inspiration from the late Kirby Puckett. Ortiz’s major league career began with the Twins in 1997. Puckett passed away in 2006, but the Red Sox brought his children to Fenway Park. They did not speak at the podium or throw a ceremonial first pitch, but their presence likely meant more than, say, Jason Varitek’s or Tim Wakefield’s.

“Oh man, that was very emotional,” Ortiz said. “I’m not going to lie to you, like, when I saw them coming toward me, I thought about Kirby. A lot. That was my man, you know. It was super nice to see his kids. Because I remember, when they were little guys, little kids. Once I got to join the Minnesota Twins, Kirby was already working in the front office. So they were, they used to come in and out. I used to get to see them. But their dad was a very special person for me and that’s why you saw me carry the No. 34 when I got here. It was very special to get to see them, to get kind of connected with Kirby somehow someway.”

Ortiz’s place in the row of 11 retired numbers comes in between Boggs’ No. 26 and Jackie Robinson’s No. 42.