FORT MYERS, Fla. — Daniel Bard is making progress in his transition from reliever to starter.

Bard allowed three runs, three hits and three walks in five innings Tuesday night as the Boston Red Sox lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, 9-2.

The hard-throwing right-hander said he felt better in the fourth and fifth innings than he did in the first three. He retired his last eight batters and 12 of his final 14.

“A lot of good stuff to build on, I think,” Bard said. “Obviously, I’d like to have that second inning back. I think I learned some good things. I felt like I stayed aggressive despite falling behind.”

Bard struck out two and gave up a two-run double in the second to Travis Snider.

Kelly Shoppach, slated to back up Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, hit a two-run homer in the second off Blue Jays starter Aaron Laffey, who gave up two runs and three hits in five innings.

Bard appeared in 70 games last season for the Red Sox. He went 2-9 with a 3.33 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 73 innings, pitching mostly as a setup man.

First-year Boston manager Bobby Valentine wants to see Bard continue to get comfortable as a starter.

“I don’t want to sound like I don’t have any idea,” Valentine said of how Bard would fit in with this year’s team. “I like that fact that he was able to make some adjustments.”

Bard gave up seven runs on six hits and four walks in his previous outing March 15, which lasted just 2 2/3 innings.

“I felt real comfortable as the game went on,” Bard said. “I just think I had a string of a couple of walks that got me in trouble. Even the ball Snider hit, it was a pretty decent fastball. You can’t really get too mad about that. If the bases weren’t loaded then, it wouldn’t have been a big deal.

“I felt the best in the fourth and fifth innings. Physically, fatigue has not been an issue. I think the simplicity of the way I throw has helped me in that aspect.”

Bard could fall in line behind opening-day starter Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz, with the No. 5 spot in the rotation still up for grabs. Bard threw 83 pitches, 49 for strikes.

“I don’t expect to be handed anything,” he said. “After my last outing, I wasn’t expecting to be handed a job. He wouldn’t be doing his job if that was the case. I think today was a good building block to get through five innings with a reasonable amount of pitches.

“One of the biggest questions people had of me were, how am I going to handle the workload? How am I going to handle throwing 100 pitches in the game? Or more. I’m getting through five innings throwing 80 pitches and feeling really well at the end. That gives me a lot of confidence. My arm can handle this. My body can handle this.”

Mel Parnell, who led the American League with 25 wins in 1949 and who pitched his entire career with the Red Sox, died of cancer at age 89.

Parnell, who holds the team record for wins by a left-hander with 123, also had 21 wins in 1953, and 18 in both 1950 and ’51.

Parnell, known for throwing a screwball, hurt his arm in 1954 and never pitched another full season, although he tossed a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox in 1956, his final season.

 

YANKEES: Left-hander Andy Pettitte said his arm feels great after throwing his first bullpen session since ending his brief retirement.

 

PADRES: Catcher Nick Hundley agreed to a $9 million, three-year contract.

 

ROYALS-ASTROS: Needing to plug a big hole behind the plate, Kansas City acquired catcher Humberto Quintero and outfielder Jason Bourgeois from Houston for minor league reliever Kevin Chapman and a player to be named.

 

ORIOLES: Pitcher Dontrelle Willis agreed to a minor league contract.

 

RANGERS: Pitcher Derek Holland wanted to ensure his long-term future with the team, so he agreed to a $28.5 million, five-year contract rather than wait to become a free agent.

 

TIGERS: Third baseman Miguel Cabrera has a broken bone below his right eye after being struck by a bad-hop grounder, sidelining him for at least a week.

 

ROCKIES: Catcher Ramon Hernandez left a spring-training game against San Diego after he was hit near his left knee with a pitch.