Converting Bard to starter will be no easy task

586520.jpg

Converting Bard to starter will be no easy task

DALLAS -- Around baseball, it's become a trend: relievers being converted into starters.

The Texas Rangers, two-time defending American League champions, plan on moving Neftali Feliz, their closer, into the rotation while using newly-signed Joe Nathan to close.

The Rangers know their way around the process, having converted both C.J. Wilson and Alexi Ogando from relievers into starters in previous seasons. The Baltimore Orioles are planning on doing the same with Joe Johnson.

And now the Red Sox are contemplating the switch, too, with Daniel Bard.

But the move comes with some risks and challenges.

With Bard, the Sox must first be assured that he can make the transition successfully. Further, they have to have another candidate in mind who can handle the high-leverage set-up innings that Bard has locked down the last two seasons.

As a late-inning reliever, Bard has had the luxury of relying on just two overpowering pitches: his fastball and slider. To succeed as a starter and face the same hitters three times in the same game, he'll need to master a third pitch.

"He's got a changeup that's been good," said Red Sox GM Ben Cherington. "He's been in situations at times where he really hasn't needed to use it. There have been outings where he has used it and it's been really good. Certainly the reps that you get as a starter in spring training and the time in between give him a chance to work on that more.

"He certainly has a lot of the characteristics we think that go into making a good starter, but most importantly, his mindset is in a good place. He's prepared to do this and also prepared to pitch in a different role if that's what the team needs."

Bard isn't the only Red Sox reliever who could switch jobs in 2012. Alfredo Aceves, who made 51 of his 55 appearances out of the bullpen, could also be used in the rotation.

The prospect of having two pitchers on the same staff increase their workload dramatically in the same year could put a strain on the staff and is something the Red Sox have to weigh.

"It's something that's part of the calculus, certainly," agreed Cherington, "figuring out how the entire pitching staff works. It's not just: Can they do it from a talent standpoint? But it's (also) 'here's the innings that we have to fill over the course of a 162-game season and do we have enough to fill it.

"There are guys who have done it. C.J. Wilson did. Texas has done that a couple of times now. We think that those two guys could have a chance to do it. They keep themselves in really good shape and they're going to prepare well and they're talented. But it's certainly a factor."

Farrell defends Sox' shoulder program, but he first raised the issue

Farrell defends Sox' shoulder program, but he first raised the issue

Red Sox manager John Farrell didn’t scream “fake news" on Tuesday,  but he might as well have.

The only problem is he seems to be forgetting his own words, and his reliever’s.

Righty Tyler Thornburg is starting his Red Sox career on the disabled list because of a shoulder impingement. 

Another Dave Dombrowski pitching acquisition, another trip to the disabled list. Ho hum.

But the reason Thornburg is hurt, Farrell said, has nothing to do with the Red Sox’ shoulder program -- the same program Farrell referenced when talking about Thornburg earlier this month.

“There’s been a lot written targeting our shoulder program here,” Farrell told reporters on Tuesday, including the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. “I would discount that completely. He came into camp, he was throwing the ball extremely well, makes two appearances. They were two lengthy innings in which inflammation flared up to the point of shutting him down. But in the early work in spring training, he was throwing the ball outstanding. So to suggest that his situation or his symptoms are now the result of our shoulder program, that’s false.”

Let’s go back to March 10, when Farrell was asked in his usual pregame session with reporters about Thornburg’s status.

"He is throwing long-toss out to 120 feet today," Farrell said that day. “He’s also been going through a strength and conditioning phase, arm-wise. What we encounter with guys coming from other organizations, and whether it's Rick [Porcello], David [Price], guys that come in, and they go through our shoulder maintenance program, there's a period of adaptation they go through, and Tyler’s going through that right now. We're also going to get him on the mound and get some fundamental work with his delivery and just timing, and that's soon to come in the coming days. Right now it's long toss out to 120 feet.”

So Farrell volunteered, after Thornburg was taken out of game action, that the shoulder program appeared involved. 

Maybe that turned out not to be the case. But Farrell's the one who put this idea out there.

On March 11, Farrell was asked to elaborate about other pitchers who needed adjusting to how the Red Sox do their shoulder program.

“Rick Porcello is an example of that. Joe Kelly,” Farrell said. “And that's not to say that our program is the end-all, be-all, or the model for which everyone should be compared. That's just to say that what we do here might be a little more in-depth based on a conversation with the pitchers, that what they've experienced and what we ask them to do here. And large in part, it's with manual resistance movements on the training table. These are things that are not maybe administered elsewhere, so the body goes through some adaptation to get to that point. 

“So, in other words, a pitcher that might come in here previously, he pitched, he’s got recovery time and he goes and pitches again. There's a lot of work and exercise in between the outings that they may feel a little fatigued early on. But once they get those patterns, and that consistent work, the body adapts to it and their recovery times become much shorter. And it's one of the reasons we've had so much success keeping pitchers healthy and on the field.”

Except that Kelly has had a shoulder impingement in his time with the Red Sox, last April, and so too now does Thornburg.

In quotes that appeared in a March 12 story, Thornburg himself told the Herald’s Michael Silverman that he didn’t understand the Red Sox throwing program.

Thornburg said that after the December trade, he was sent a list of exercises from the training staff. The message he did not receive was that all of the exercises were to be performed daily.

“I kind of figured that this is a list of the exercises they incorporated, I didn’t think this is what they do all in one day,” said Thornburg. “I thought, ‘here’s a list of exercises, learn them, pick five or six of them,’ because that was pretty much what we did in Milwaukee.”

But according to Farrell, Thornburg’s current state has nothing to do with the program -- the same one Farrell himself cited when directly asked about Thornburg before.

Maybe the program was the wrong thing to point to originally. But Farrell did point to it.

"This is all still in line with the shoulder fatigue, the shoudler impingement and the subsequent inflammation that he's dealing with. That’s the best I can tell you at this point," Farrell said Tuesday. "Anytime a player, and we've had a number of players come in, when you come into a new organization, there's a period where guys adapt. Could it have been different from what he's done in the past? Sure. But to say it's the root cause, that’s a little false. That’s a lot false, and very short-sighted."

Hey, he started it.

Thornburg is not to throw for a week before a re-evaluation.

Report: Trump won't throw out first pitch

Report: Trump won't throw out first pitch

One White House tradition will have to wait, if it’s in fact maintained.

President Donald Trump is not going to throw out a ceremonial first pitch for the Washington Nationals this season, according to the Washington Post.

Post reporter Barry Svrugula wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that the White House declined an invitation from the Nats.

POLITICO reported early Tuesday morning that Trump was in talks to throw out the first pitch and that it was also possible he could spend an inning in the MASN booth.

President William Howard Taft began the custom of U.S. presidents throwing out a first pitch on April 14, 1910, at National Stadium in D.C.

According to The Week:

“Since Taft, every president not named Jimmy Carter has thrown out at least one Opening Day first pitch. The executive guests of honor followed in Taft's hefty footsteps, throwing the first ball from the stands, until the late 1980s when Ronald Reagan sauntered onto the mound and improved upon the tradition."

The most famous presidential pitch in recent memory is George W. Bush’s toss during the 2001 World Series at Yankee Stadium.

The Nats open their season on Monday at home in Washington D.C., in a 1:05 p.m. game against the Miami Marlins. A Nationals Magic 8 Ball is to be given away to the first 20,000 fans.

The Red Sox happen to play the Nats in a pair of exhibitions right before the season, on Friday and Saturday. Friday’s game is at the Nats’ home park in D.C. Saturday’s game is to be played in Annapolis, Md., at the U.S. Naval Academy.