Battered Bard returning to EL
FORT MYERS, Fla. - Two years ago, Daniel Bard was among the top setup men in baseball, considered the heir apparent to then-Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.
Last year, a failed stint in Boston's starting rotation led to Bard's demotion to Triple-A Pawtucket.
On Thursday, the struggling right-hander took another step back, ongoing control problems landing him a spot on the roster of the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs, for whom he last pitched in 2008.
While the Red Sox looked forward to Monday's season opener at Yankee Stadium, Bard began preparing for a return to the Eastern League and parks such as Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester, N.H., where the Sea Dogs will face the New Hampshire Fisher Cats 14 times this year.
Bard did himself no favors Wednesday in his uphill battle to win the final spot in the Red Sox bullpen, giving up three runs on three hits and a walk, and blowing a save in the seventh inning of a 5-1 loss to the Miami Marlins at JetBlue Park.
Boston's final bullpen spot was between Bard and Clayton Mortensen.
One thing Mortenesen had working in his favor was that he can't be sent down to the minors without being exposed to waivers.
That wasn't the case with Bard, who has options remaining.
"Completely out of my control," Bard said on Wednesday. "I can't help that I didn't burn any options in my first couple years. It's just part of the game, something I've got to live with."
Bard has tried hard to put aside his 2012 struggles and return to the 2010-11 form that allowed him to preserve those options.
"I think I've done what I've needed to as far as just to prove I'm over last year," he said on Wednesday. "My mechanics are pretty close to being locked in where I want to be. Giving me a scouting report to throw off of, I think I'm going to be able to help this team."
But the "pretty close" part to those mechanics was a tip-off that Bard knew what everyone else knew: He's not where he should be.
"He's in the process of ironing those out and gaining that consistency," manager John Farrell, who alluded to the roster considerations in play, said of Bard's mechanical inconsistencies. "With Daniel and that slot on our staff, it's probably as much roster management as it might be just himself and the evaluation of it.
"There's some things to consider, and certainly part of it is where he's at now in this adjustment phase that he's going through. I think it's important for Daniel to keep in mind, and for us to keep in mind, that while there's been inconsistency in spring training, when you compare it to last year, there's marked improvement. We've got to keep all that in mind."
Bard, who compiled a 6.75 ERA in exhibition play this spring, thought he pitched better than the results showed.
"Little frustrated, feel like I actually threw the ball pretty well. One thing I think I didn't do well was throw my off-speed (pitches) for strikes," he said. "I feel good. You could put my outing (Wednesday) up against something from 2010, and it'd be hard to find anything different.
"I was never Greg Maddux. I was never a pinpoint control guy. So I'm kind of done trying to get back to that because, realistically, you watch anything I've done in the past four years, you know, it's around the zone - let the stuff play. That's what I'm trying to do now."
But he'll be doing that in Portland - and Manchester, and other cities around the Eastern League. For Bard right now, Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park are a long ways off.
Material from the Boston Herald was used in this report.