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We continue our week-long look at the Red Sox bullpen with setup man Daniel Bard.
Entering his third season, Bard is expected to continue on his journey in learning how to be a strong closer. What better way to learn than from Jonathan Papelbon and Bobby Jenks? Bard showed last season why he was taken in the first round by the Red Sox in 2007: by simply dominating late in games. He posted an ERA of 1.93 with a record of 1-2, three saves and 32 holds. He showed last season that he could and should be a strong closer some day by having so many holds at the end of games. Had Papelbon been more effective last season, he and Bard would have combined to be the best 1-2 punch out of any bullpen in the league.
The only problem going into this season is that Bard is going to have to share the load with Jenks. This could be a good thing and a bad thing. Bard might not get the chance to get holds or saves with Jenks in the mix, but his numbers could be even better than last season. Bard had seven blown saves last year and that is a number that should fall to as low as one or two.
The 25-year-old should be a lock to come into the game in either the seventh or eighth inning, depending on how the game is going. As of right now, it wouldn’t be surprising if Bard came in in the seventh, Jenks in the eighth and Papelbon in the ninth. This would cut down Bard’s holds dramatically, but he could lower his ERA and WHIP while giving him more chances to improve his record. I look for numbers like an ERA of 1.15, WHIP of 0.87, three saves, 25 holds and a record of 4-1. Hopefully he’ll cut down his walks (30 last season) and with his strong pitches he has the potential to bring up his strikeouts (76 last season).