A few days ago, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington expressed his hope that Daniel Bard doesn’t make headlines this spring each time he picks up a ball.

Even Cherington knew that was wishful thinking.

Fact is, Bard endured such a horrid 2012 season that his attempts to rebound and earn a spot in an overcrowded bullpen is now something of a circus act at camp. The reliever’s first bullpen session was a scene, and he drew a throng of cameras last weekend when he faced hitters for the first time in live batting practice.

And so, all eyes focused on Bard again yesterday when he pitched the second inning of an exhibition against Northeastern University at JetBlue Park.

“I feel like I have something to prove,” Bard said. “I think that’s a good thing.”

In that case, this was a positive first step, at least to whatever degree such a conclusion may be drawn from an 18-pitch outing against college kids. Bard gave up a jam-shot single to Huskies center fielder Connor Lyons, then struck out the side, mixing in several sliders with his fastball and throwing 13 strikes, including five swings-and-misses.

“I’m satisfied,” Bard said. “Not perfect, obviously, but it’s a huge step in the right direction.”

After last season, there’s really only one direction for Bard to go.

It was a year ago that Bard’s every step in spring training was scrutinized while he was making the transition from lights-out reliever to No. 5 starter. Everyone knows how that turned out. The experiment lasted just 10 starts, with Bard bottoming out in a June 3 start in Toronto and getting banished to the minors.

From there, things only got worse. Even after returning to the bullpen at Triple-A Pawtucket, Bard’s mechanics were messed up, his control erratic and his fastball velocity sharply diminished from its previous triple-digit levels. After being recalled by the Sox in September, he finished the season with a 6.22 ERA, more walks (43) than strikeouts (38) and eight hit batters in 591⁄3 innings.