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How did Daniel Bard fall so far so fast? Monday December 2th, during what has been a tumultuous week for baseball contracts, the Cubs non-tendered him after only three months with the organization. Chicago acquired the right-handed pitcher on September 4, 2013 off waivers from the Red Sox. Many fans and reporters felt that Theo Epstein and the Cubs could be the change that Bard needed to succeed. The news of the non-tender was, hopefully, the final blow him in 2013.
During the 2013 season with the Red Sox organization, Bard stepped down the minor league ladder until he reached the Gulf Coast League and, most recently, the Puerto Rican Winter League in which he made two dismal appearances. His struggles with command began in 2012. He was an effective set-up man in 2010 and 2011. After the departure of Jonathan Papelbon and hiring of Bobby Valentine, Bard was rather misguidedly promoted to the starting rotation. As fans saw during the 2013 season with previous Red Sox reliever Allen Webster, the move from pitching two or three innings in the middle of the game is far different than the throwing the first six innings.
After losses, injuries, and the beginning of pitch command issues, Bard’s ERA ballooned into the sevens. When fans once felt a sense of relief when he took the mound, they now felt weary. We questioned — was it between his ears, or was it mechanics? How could it be that a guy that could throw 90-plus MPH not be able to handle the five-man rotation? Most likely the 2012 season was a combination of poor management and a worried, injured Bard. In baseball, as in life, it is never one variable, but a group of them that tip the scales towards decline.
Over this past summer, some were not sure where Bard was, as some Red Sox websites had him rostered in Portland, then Greenville. Fans lost faith in him in 2012, and in appearances at this season’s Spring Training. Many hoped that the Cubs could put him in the right place, to help out in the bullpen with improved management by Epstein and pitching coach Chris Bosio. Little explanation is provided as to why Chicago released him. Could this mean that he is injured and may be a good candidate for what seems to be the career-saving Tommy John surgery?
As of today, Bard could go back to the Cubs, or manage to strike a minor league deal with another franchise. Teams would not be interested in him pitching at the major league level. His fate hangs in the balance as winter meetings begin in a few days. Hopefully some answers will come to light over the next few weeks.
Do you think Bard has a place with another ballclub? Is this the end of the road for him?