FORT MYERS, Fla. — The fastball command wasn’t where he wanted it early in spring training.

How comforting that must have been for hitters to know Daniel Bard wasn’t commanding his 100 mph fastball.

Bard wasn’t hitting batters but also wasn’t locating his pitches and got hit. But lately he looks locked in with both his fastball and bat-freezing slider.

“Just trying to stick with what worked for me last year,” said Bard, who relieved for the Sea Dogs in 2008, moved to the majors early in 2009 and in 2010, looked dominant at times.

Bard’s 1.93 ERA and 1.00 WHIP (walks/hits per inning pitched) provided a rare bright spot in the battered Boston bullpen.

Bard, who entered 73 games last year, throwing 742/3 innings, likes to work. But he prefers one-inning stints. With Boston’s relief woes last year, he sometimes was asked to do too much.

With Bobby Jenks joining Bard in the setup role, and other roles filled with new arms, Bard shouldn’t have to carry the bullpen.

“I don’t see overuse being a problem,” Bard said. “Having more depth this year is going to cut those multiple-inning stints way down. There’s no reason we can’t go out with the lead and stack us up 7-8-9.”

A seventh-eighth-ninth-inning combo would feature Jenks and Bard, then Jonathan Papelbon

Those three pitchers will throw one inning apiece in tonight’s exhibition at Houston.

 

PAPELBON HASN’T generated a lot of excitement this spring, with his 10.50 ERA over six innings.

In a simulated setting Monday, Papelbon threw 21 pitches, only nine for strikes.

“I heard he was just OK,” Manager Terry Francona said. “(Papelbon) is one of our guys that pitches on adrenaline more than anybody.

“For the most part, we’ve seen when (he’s) dialed in, his stuff is coming out of his hand pretty good.”

Bard also pitched in the simulated setting and needed only 13 pitches (10 strikes).

“He looked (darn) good,” Francona said.

 

WHAT BOSTON lineup do you want to talk about?

There’s the basic lineup, which is what the Red Sox used Monday.

But that lineup may not be used on opening day because of the opposing pitcher.

Then there are the tweaks Francona may use.

The basic lineup features Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek (or Jarrod Saltalamacchia) and Marco Scutaro.

But Boston faces Texas left-hander C.J. Wilson on opening day Friday. Left-handers batted .144 against Wilson last year.

“It’s not just a lefty but who the lefty is,” Francona said. “C.J. Wilson is one of those lefties where on normal days, that’s the day you give your righties a shot.

“But it’s opening day. There’s some thought that needs to go into that.”

In other words, if Ortiz and Drew can do without the honor of being in the opening-day lineup, look for Mike Cameron, plus either Jed Lowrie or Darnell McDonald in the lineup.

Two tweaks to the lineup that Francona suggested he might incorporate from time to time are switching Pedroia and Crawford in the order, or swapping Gonzalez and Youkilis.

 

GONZALEZ PRODUCED the only run from Tuesday’s lineup in a 1-1 nine-inning tie with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Clay Buchholz allowed one run over four innings, then Tim Wakefield, Dan Wheeler, Matt Albers and Blake Maxwell combined for scoreless relief.

Gonzalez’s shot to left-center off Wade Davis was his second home run in 26 at-bats this spring. Drew added two hits to the output.

 

MAXWELL AND Jason Rice made the trip to Houston on Tuesday night to give the major- league team pitching depth for its exhibition tonight.

Rice, 24, pitched for the Sea Dogs last year and will be in the Pawtucket bullpen this season.

Maxwell, 26, has bounced around, pitching for Portland in 2009, then both Class A Salem and Portland last year. Maxwell said he was sent to the Sea Dogs’ spring-training team just last week, so you can expect him in Portland again.

Maxwell has fared well in his four major-league games this spring. He pitched a scoreless ninth Tuesday, allowing his first hit. He has walked one and struck out four over four innings with a 0.00 ERA.

“Maxwell comes in every time and throws strikes,” Francona said.

CITY OF Palms Park saw its last Red Sox game. The stadium, which was built to lure the Red Sox to Fort Myers in 1993, will be empty next year unless the city can find a team to move in.

The Red Sox are moving to a new $77 million complex in the city. It will feature a new stadium, larger clubhouse, state-of-the-art training and rehab facilities, and six practice fields on the same property.

Boston’s current setup has the practice fields located 2 miles from City of Palms.

Fort Myers taxpayers are certainly hoping for a new tenant at City of Palms. They still have a $23.5 million debt to pay on the stadium.

 

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: [email protected]