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According to CSNNE’s Sean McAdam, the Red Sox front office is preparing for the possibility that Daniel Bard returns to the bullpen for 2012, rather than take a place in the starting rotation. Instead, Alfredo Aceves, the swingman from 2011, could complete his own transition from relief to starting.
In 12.2 innings this spring, Bard has allowed eleven hits and ten runs, good for a 7.11 ERA. The right hander, who posts a career 2.80 K:BB ratio, has not been as stingy with the bases on balls this spring, handing out ten walks to just six strikeouts.
Aceves, on the other hand, has allowed only one run during his 9.0 Spring Training innings. On top of that, he has struck out eight and has not issued a single walk.
Of course, Spring Training statistics are nearly meaningless: they represent a very small sample of work during a warm-up period that makes even talented veterans like Roy Halladay look foolish at times. In addition, the nature of spring games is such that pitchers are not put in and taken out of games as they are in the regular season, but to “get in work.” If a starter is pitching well, he will still be removed early in the game for the relief pitchers slated to go that day. Same with hitters. The Red Sox know this, so the question is why run the experiment if the highly flawed results will make a difference?
The Red Sox have not made an official announcement or confirmation of this report and perhaps a good outing by Bard next time will end all speculation if it appears he has settled into starting and found the comfort he normally has while relieving.
On the plus side, Aceves is a perfectly acceptable back of the rotation starter. If Daniel Bard cannot be better than that, for any reason, why mess with a good thing? In concert with Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon, a return to the bullpen by Bard would give the Red Sox a formidable trio to end ballgames.
And as a bonus, David Ortiz will probably be happy too.