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

First impressions: Tampa Bay Rays 4, Boston Red Sox 0

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First impressions: Tampa Bay Rays 4, Boston Red Sox 0

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays:

What was Jackie Bradley thinking in the fifth inning? He wasn't, apparently.

Trailing 4-0, the Red Sox had runners on first and second with two out and Christian Vazquez at the plate.

Inexplicably, Bradley broke from second base in an attempt to steal third. Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore simply pivoted and threw the ball to third, where Bradley was tagged out for the final out of the inning.

Not only did it end the threat, it guaranteed the weak-hitting Vazquez would lead off the next inning.

It was the first time in his career that Bradley was thrown out trying to steal and one that he -- or the Red Sox -- won't soon forget.

David Price didn't like the strike zone.

On at least two occasions, Price made a detour from the mound to the dugout after innings to confer with home-plate umpire John Hirchbeck, presumably about the latter's strike zone.

It may be true that Price got squeezed on some pitches, but when you give up four runs to a light-hitting lineup that had lost 12 of its last 13, it's not a good look to be placing any of the blame on the umpiring.

The Red Sox aren't the worst team in baseball with the bases loaded; it just seems that way.

The Sox threatened in the sixth when Vazquez and Mookie Betts singled and, after a flyout by Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts singled, too.

But David Ortiz couldn't handle some fastballs in the strike zone, popping up in the infield, and Hanley Ramirez hit a ball off the end of the bat for an inning-ending flyout to right.

For the season, the Red Sox are 18-for-70 for a .257 batting average with the bases loaded, ranking them 17th -- or just below the middle of the pack -- in baseball.

Still, it seems that the Sox have been particularly inept in those situations of late, most memorably when they loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the ninth against Chicago two weeks ago and improably came away with nothing.

Red Sox aggressively chasing big-name pitchers like Fernandez, Cole

Red Sox aggressively chasing big-name pitchers like Fernandez, Cole

Sean McAdam talks with Toucher & Rich about how aggressive Dave Dombrowski will be in trying to acquire pitching help. The fact they made calls on Jose Fernandez and Gerrit Cole says they will be very aggressive.