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

McAdam: Prospects of a Papelbon-Red Sox reunion dimming

McAdam: Prospects of a Papelbon-Red Sox reunion dimming

BOSTON -- Until next Wednesday, major league teams can add to their rosters and have the new additions still be eligible for postseason play.

But don't expect the Red Sox to do any serious upgrading.

The bullpen could sorely use some reinforcements, but the difficulty of obtaining help at this time of year -- when players changing teams must first clear waivers -- is problematic.

Asked recently the odds of the Sox making a deal to bolster the team's relief group, an industry source reponded: "Pretty slim.''

The source went on to say that any relievers of value have been routinely "blocked'' -- i.e., claimed by a team before being pulled back by the original club.

The few relievers who have successfully cleared waivers -- including Oakland's Ryan Madson and Chicago's David Robertson -- are those with multiyear commitments that extend beyond this season.

And just because the likes of Madson and Robertson have cleared waivers doesn't guarantee they're necessarily available. At this time of the year, teams routinely send their players through waivers to provide them with flexibilty and to determine the level of interest for deals in the off-season.

In the case of Robertson, the Red Sox would be taking on $25 million in future salary for 2017 and 2018 for a pitcher who would not be serving as their closer. The Sox control Craig Kimbrel for two more seasons, with a guaranteed contract for 2017 and a team option for 2018.

One major-league executive noted that teams are often reluctant to take on a reliever with a multiyear contract, since the existence of a future commitment could restrict a team in terms of usage.

Better to have a player on an expiring deal, the executive suggested, with no worries about future obligations.

It's still possible that the Sox could acquire Jonathan Papelbon, whose case has gone cold in the past week. Only 10 days ago, reports had Papelbon ready to sign within 24 hours with one of the handful of clubs expressing an interest in him.

But since then, Papelbon hasn't been heard from. One source indicated that Papelbon's interest in signing elsewhere may be impacted by a family situation.

Whatever the reason, the longer Papelbon goes without signing somewhere, the tougher it is to imagine him having much impact. 

Papelbon last pitched for the Washington Nationals on Aug. 6, three weeks ago. He would need some time on a minor-league assignment in order to be major league-ready for the final month.

And while Papelbon would enjoy returning to the familiarity of Boston, he's not close to the same pitcher that he was when he left after 2011. Indeed, Papelbon isn't even the same pitcher he was in his final two seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Red Sox, reduced to matching up night after night in the eighth inning, would still welcome him back. But there are other options to upgrade a porous bullpen, options that would seem to make the odds of a Papebon-Red Sox reunion negligible.