After enduring the most miserable season of his career, Daniel Bard went to great lengths to forget it.
First up, a few days in California wine country to cloud the memory of a failed conversion from dominant late-inning reliever to failed starting pitcher. Then, a midwinter 1-2 punch of sun and surf in the Virgin Islands to wipe out any lingering negative thoughts.
“It was a relaxing offseason,” Bard said yesterday. “Can’t complain.”
And now, five days before the Red Sox’ first mandatory workout, Bard is throwing on the fields behind JetBlue Park with what he insists is a clear mind, preparing for a spring training unlike any he has experienced in four years.
At 27, Bard remains an asset for the Sox. He recorded a 1.93 ERA in 73 appearances in 2010 and went 25 appearances without allowing a run in 2011. During that stretch, there wasn’t a more effective set-up man in the majors.
But after becoming a starter last season, Bard lost his triple-digit velocity, his command, and ultimately, his confidence. He went back to the bullpen during a two-month exile to the minor leagues, then allowed runs in five of six outings upon his return.
“I’m done talking about last year,” Bard said. “It was frustrating at times, very frustrating. But I can look back on it now, kind of from an outsider’s perspective, see the bigger picture and see the issues that I had.”
But as Bard tries to prove he has recovered from his lost season, he must emerge from a field of 11 relievers vying for seven seats in the bullpen. And unlike most of those pitchers, he still can be sent back to the minors without clearing waivers.
Indeed, for the first time since 2009, Bard comes to spring training without any guarantee of a job when camp breaks on March 31.
“I know I have some things to prove,” Bard said. “But I also know that I feel good right now. I know that in the past, when things have felt good, it takes care of itself.”
Refreshed Daniel Bard looks to regain status
Boston Herald | Feb 8