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: Buchholz is the relief the Red Sox need

McAdam: Buchholz is the relief the Red Sox need

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- This is the kind of season it has been for Clay Buchholz:

A little more than a month ago, he was merely taking up space on the Red Sox roster, having been summarily removed from the rotation after three months of poor outings.

He was in the bullpen, but the Sox were loathe to use him. Asked, memorably, why Buchholz hadn't been the choice to serve as a long reliever in a game in which the starter departed early, John Farrell candidly noted, in not so many words, that because the Sox still had a chance to win the game, Buchholz didn't make sense as an option.

Ouch.

But slowly, Buchholz became more effective in his new relief role. And when injuries struck the rotation, Buchholz got himself three cameo starts, during which he posted a 2.70 ERA in 16 2/3 innings, topped by Tuesday's beauty -- 6 1/3 innings, one run allowed, nine strikeouts recorded.

Just as Buchholz has straightened out, however, Red Sox starters are suddenly stacked up like jets waiting for clearance to land at Logan Airport. Steven Wright returns from a brief DL stint Friday, and Eduardo Rodriguez is not far behind.

When he pitched poorly, the Red Sox didn't have any other options.

When he pitched well, the Red Sox have plenty of other choices.

So, now what?

"As far as Clay goes,'' said John Farrell, "this will be, I'm sure, a conversation (had) within (the organization). But setting that aside, he's throwing the ball exceptionally well right now.''

That's indisputable.

But the question remains: In what capacity will he throw the ball in the near future?

There's been a suggestion to keep Buchholz in the rotation while moving Drew Pomeranz to the bullpen. That would give the Sox a dependable lefty in relief -- as opposed to, say, Fernando Abad -- while also serving the dual purpose of putting a governor on Pomeranz's climbing innings total.

Pomeranz, who has plenty of bullpen experience in the big leagues, has also thrown 140 1/3 innings this season, eclipsing his previous major league high by nearly 40.

But Pomeranz is 27, not 21. He's shown no signs of fatigue. To the contrary, he's 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts. The Sox shouldn't mess with his success.

Instead, Buchholz should become one of the team's high-leverage set-up weapons, available in the seventh or eighth inning.

True, Buchholz doesn't have the swing-and-miss capability you'd prefer to have in the eighth inning, where the fewer balls put in play, the better off you are. But he can get lefties and righties out, and, pitching out of the stretch full-time, he's greatly improved his command.

Buchholz would remain the best option for a spot start if one of the five Red Sox starters faltered or got hurt. But the bullpen remains the best choice for him.

Ironic, isn't it? When he pitched poorly, he remained in the rotation for several months. Now that he's pitching superbly, he can't earn a permanent spot.

It's been that kind of season.

McAdam: Will this be Clay Buchholz's last start?

McAdam: Will this be Clay Buchholz's last start?

With Wright and Rodriguez set to return, Sean McAdam joins SNC to discuss whether Tuesday’s game against the Rays will be the last start for Clay Buchholz.