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It’s safe to say that the Daniel Bard starting pitcher experiment is over for the remainder of the 2012 season. On Friday, a report surfaced that Bard had met with general manager Ben Cherington and expressed his interest in moving back to the bullpen. Cherington agreed with the decision, and Bard will be working out of the bullpen exclusively for the Pawtucket Red Sox until he is called up to the major league squad.
Bard said, “I know I can be a good starter, but I already know I’m a great reliever.” The move to the bullpen makes decisions a little easier on Bobby Valentine. With Daisuke Matsuzaka pitching relatively well since his return from Tommy John surgery, and Aaron Cook making progress with his injuries, the starting rotation would have been very crowded if Bard were still in the picture. With Bard going back to the bullpen, the Red Sox will have more depth at the back end setting up for Alfredo Aceves, who has done a good job as the closer.
To say Daniel Bard was far from stellar in his time as a starter would be an understatement. In 11 games pitched, 10 of which he started, Bard was 5-6 with a 5.24 earned run average, 37 walks, and only 34 strikeouts in 55 innings pitched. The dominant strikeout artist from the bullpen that Boston was used to never emerged in the starting rotation. His velocity was down, and his accuracy was almost non-existent. At times he looked as if he was trying to be too perfect on the mound, and didn’t trust his pitches.
In his short career as a reliever, the numbers are drastically different. In 197 innings pitched in relief, Bard had a 2.92 ERA, 213 strikeouts, and only 76 walks. His velocity was consistently between 98 and 101 mph, which was obviously not the case as a starter.
Many believed Bard was going to inherit the closer’s role after Jonathan Papelbon signed with the Phillies. Instead the Red Sox decided to try him out in the starting rotation, and it never seemed to click. Bard has always seemed more comfortable coming out of the bullpen as a set-up man. With Aceves doing well in the closer’s role, and Andrew Bailey scheduled to come back later in the 2012 season, Bard provides depth and experience to the back end of the Red Sox bullpen — a bullpen that has become a strong point of the team this year. While there is always the possibility of the team’s management revisiting the Bard starting experiment in the future, that won’t be happening anymore this year.
The move of Bard back to the bullpen is the right move for the team as well as Bard. He never seemed comfortable as a starter, and appeared to only do it because he was being told to by the team. To his credit, Bard handled it as best he could, but it was obvious the passion to start just wasn’t there, as evidenced by his performance. When Bard returns to the big league club and emerges from the bullpen, I think we will all see the Bard of years’ past, which will be a very welcoming sight.