Bard's control issue out of control

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Bard's control issue out of control

PHILADELPHIA -- It didn't take long for Daniel Bard's outing to head in the wrong direction.

On the sixth pitch of his start Friday night, with a full count to Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, Bard, against his own better judgement, elected to throw Rollins a slider.

The pitch missed, Rollins walked and the inning soon unraveled for Bard. He would walk three of the first four hitters he faced, leading to a big 4-0 inning, from which the Sox couldn't rebound in a 6-4 loss at Citizens Bank Park.

Needing 33 pitches just to get out of the first, Bard would be done after five. He walked five, hit two others and finds himself still struggling in the transition from reliever to starter.

But whether in the bullpen or in the rotation, Bard's command is the biggest issue. He's walked 13 in his last three starts, spanning 18 innings, earning a rebuke from his manager.

"He didn't have his control in the first inning tonight...obviously,'' said Valentine. "The walks, they're not acceptable. That amount of walks...you can't leave your team out there and you can't be letting those guys get on base.

"He's tough to hit in the strike zone. Might as well throw it in there.''

Bard said the problem in the first was initially a physical one, but was then compounded by a mental mistake.

"When you get out of your delivery a little bit,'' said Bard, 3-5, "the best thing to do is kind of step off, take a breath and kind of hit the re-set button. I never did that. I tried to power through it a little bit. You can't do that, especially early in the game.

"It was probably something that should have listed two or three pitches (with a mechanical issue) and it ended up lasting 12-15 pitches. That's my fault. I didn't handle it well.''

In seven starts to date, Bard has had just three quality starts. And in one of those -- a 1-0 loss to Tampa Bay on Patriots Day -- Bard walked seven Rays, including one to force in the winning run with the bases loaded.

The Sox eventually clawed back on the strength of three solo homers and a sacrifice fly and brought the potential tying run to the plate in both the eighth and ninth innings.

But they could never overcome what Bard had spotted the home team in the very first inning.

"This loss is definitely on me,'' he said. "A 4-0 deficit in the first is pretty tough to overcome.''

Bard said the "kink'' in his delivery happens to the most experienced starters.

"It's going to happen,'' he said. "But it's how you respond and how quickly you can get to pounding the zone is kind of what defines you as a pitcher. Today, it took me too long to get back into it.''

In the future, Bard said, he'll take his time and assess what he needs to do, rather than trying to fight his way through the issue.

"It's just a matter of going back to what works,'' he said. "But my mistake was trying to power through it, thinking that the next (pitch) was going to be better and better.''

Instead, things got worse and worse for Bard and the Sox, and the deficit proved to be too much.

Also troubling: Bard has now walked 15 while striking out nine in his last four outings. For someone with a mid-to-high 90s fastball and a overpowering slider, that seems incomprehensible.

Again, the issue is command.

"I'm not getting myself in good counts -- it's as simple as that,'' said Bard. "When I start to establish 'strike one' more consistently, that will all come back.''

David Ortiz re-enacts Boston movie scenes as part of charity video

David Ortiz re-enacts Boston movie scenes as part of charity video

As part of a charity promotion with Omaze, David Ortiz has made a video re-enacting scenes from Boston-set movies. 

The movies range from a classic -- "Good Will Hunting" -- to very good crime movies -- "The Departed, The Town" — to the just plain bad "Fever Pitch," but all of the scenes are entertaining. Ortiz plays every part in each scene, often playing to characters interacting with one another. 

At the end of the video, a link is given to Omaze.com/papi, which gives fans the opportunity to enter a drawing to attend his jersey retirement ceremony by donating. Proceeds go to the David Ortiz Children’s Fund and the Red Sox Foundation. 

The David Ortiz Children Fund aims to help children in New England and the Dominican Republic who are born with congenital heart failure. 
 

Drellich: When will Red Sox players hold themselves accountable?

Drellich: When will Red Sox players hold themselves accountable?

BOSTON -- Whether John Farrell is managing the Red Sox next week or next month, keep an eye on player accountability.

Five years ago, Bobby Valentine was supposed to be the disciplinarian that stopped babying the clubhouse. Disaster followed, largely because Valentine was a terrible fit for this group, his approach extreme and dated.

But this year’s team makes you wonder whether a distilled sense of Red Sox entitlement lingers.

At Fenway Park, is the message from the veteran voices one that includes a sense of public accountability for not just the manager, but the players as well?

In FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal’s piece on Farrell, Rosenthal noted “some players, but not all, believe that [Farrell] does not stand up for them strongly enough to the media.”

Those unnamed players Rosenthal cites need a mirror, badly. Or at least a glance around the room.

Where’s the guy in the clubhouse standing up to the media with any consistency? There’s no voice that regularly shields the younger, less experienced guys from tough but expected questions after losses.

Dustin Pedroia gets dressed and leaves the clubhouse faster than Chris Sale will get the ball back and throw it Wednesday. 

Pedroia mentioned something about whale poop in Oakland over the weekend. He can be very funny, but he’s not exactly keen to deliver calming, state-of-the-union addresses — not with frequency, anyway.

Farrell, of course, has been criticized for doing the opposite of what the FOX Sports story noted. The manager was mobbed on social media last year for saying David Price had good stuff on a day Price himself said the opposite.

The premise here is amusing, if you think about it.

Follow: Players are upset that the manager does not do a better job lying about their performance. And this, in turn, affects how players play?

Get a grip.

The public isn’t dumb. If you’re bad, you’re bad, and you’re going to hear about it in Boston. No manager changes that.

Whichever Sox player seeks more protection from Farrell really needs a reminder from a teammate to play better.

Too often, some of the most famous, prominent athletes can be sensitive, and over-sensitive. Look at how LeBron James handled a question about what led to his poor performance in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.

It is true that some players question Farrell’s leadership, as Rosenthal reported. But it can also be difficult to separate questions of leadership from whining and grumbling that a manager isn’t providing said player more chances, more opportunities, even if undeserved.

How can Drew Pomeranz's unfounded dugout complaints be Farrell's fault?

The situation and player that make Farrell look the worst this year is Hanley Ramirez. The idea of him playing first base is gone, his shoulders apparently too screwed up to make that viable. 

Somehow, Ramirez made 133 starts at first base last year. One has to wonder how all of a sudden Ramirez can barely play a single game. 

If he’s hurt, he’s hurt. But the Sox didn’t come out of the gate in spring training and say, first base is out of the picture because of his health. They kept saying there was hope he'd be able to play in the field.

If Ramirez is being obstinate, he’s in turn making Farrell look weak. And, more importantly, hurting his team.

What would Ramirez be doing if David Ortiz hadn't retired? Spending the year on the disabled list?

Farrell can pack up his bags today, tomorrow or after the next full moon. The players would still need to take it upon themselves to do what’s best for their team: to focus on what matters.

If they’ve forgotten, that’s about performing up to their abilities and being accountable for themselves -- publicly and privately -- when they don’t.

A manager’s quote in the media doesn’t change whether you’re playing bad baseball.