Daniel Bard Fights for a Spot in the Boston Red Sox Bullpen

David Bulter II - USA Today Sports

David Bulter II – USA Today Sports

In 2010, very few relief pitchers in Major League Baseball had a better season than, Boston Red Sox setup man, Daniel Bard. The right-hander tossed 74.2 innings, compiling 32 holds, 76 strikeouts with a 1.93 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. If the Red Sox were on top heading into the 8th inning, Bard was handed the baseball.

After such an outstanding season it seemed like Bard was the air apparent to long-time Red Sox closer, Jonathan Papelbon. Although he didn’t have as stellar a season in 2011, Bard tallied 34 holds, 74 k’s, 3.33 ERA and 0.96 WHIP over 73 innings. At the end of the 2011 season, Papelbon was set to become a free agent and most of Red Sox nation were ready for Bard to be give the ninth inning.

Papelbon left the Red Sox to join the Philadelphia Phillies prior to the 2012 season. Red Sox Nation were ready for Bard to take the 9th inning and close things out, but the front office had other things in mind. Bard was stretched out in spring training to become part of the Red Sox starting rotation. After a few starts, it was apparent that Bard was not fit for the starting rotation. In only 10 starts Bard went 5-5 with a 5.24 ERA over 55 innings. Only going seven innings two times and pitching 5.1 innings or less six times.

The Red Sox had seen enough when on June 3rd, Bard tossed only 1.2 innings, walking six and giving up five earned runs against the Toronto Blue Jays. Two days later the Bard optioned to the Pawtucket Red Sox. Bard spent the better part of June, July and August in Rhode Island before being recalled, as part of the September callups, but this time back in the bullpen. Bard finished the season with six relief appearances, giving up nine earn runs on eight hits and six walks.

Bard has the stuff to be a great reliever. His fastball can reach triple digits, however last season nothing looked right. His mechanics and psyche were a mess. Now, Bard has had the offseason to rest, relax and reload. A great sign for Red Sox Nation is the return of John Farrell, Bard’s pitching coach for his first two seasons with the big club.

Bard enters spring training with something to prove and determined to get back the all-star pitcher he once was. After an ugly season, the 23-year-old came into springing training striking out the side in his first appearance. Bard tossed 18 pitches, 13 of which for strikes. His control looked a lot better than last season.

A return to the beginning is the only option for Bard. Work on his mechanics, while regaining his velocity and control. With a fresh start, less pressure and Farrell on the bench, Bard should get back to where he was in 2010. However, with the depth of the back end of the bullpen, Bard will need to keep up the good work in order to stay with the major league club.

Justin Soderberg is a Boston Red Sox writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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