FORT MYERS, Fla. – Daniel Bard is trying to get back on track for Boston.
So far he’s been succeeding.
Mike Napoli hit a three-run homer, Clay Buchholz overcame leg soreness to pitch three scoreless innings, and Bard struck out the side in the sixth in relief Thursday for the Red Sox in a 12-5 victory against a split squad of Minnesota Twins.
Bard, 27, went 5-6 with a 6.22 ERA last season, first being removed from the rotation and then being sent to the minors. With Triple-A Pawtucket he posted a 7.03 ERA.
But he has yet to allow a run in two innings of Grapefruit League action, striking out four. On top of that, Bard struck out three in one inning of an exhibition against Northeastern University.
“It’s very encouraging,” Manager John Farrell said. “He had improved command and improved velocity. It was a very good day for him. The most important thing you can take away from today is a lot of quality fastball strikes.”
Farrell said Bard was throwing between 95 and 97 mph.
“That might be his best velocity in a little more than a year. But besides the velocity, just the form of his delivery was the most important thing,” Farrell said.
Dustin Pedroia went 2 for 4 with a double, two RBI and two runs for the Red Sox.
Twins starter Kevin Correia gave up three runs in 2 1/3 innings. Signed to a two-year contract to help fill out a depleted rotation, Correia allowed six hits in his return from San Diego for the birth of his son.
Correia struck out one and walked one.
“I feel pretty close to where I need to be,” Correia said. “I’ve given up quite a few hits but they’ve all been pretty much singles. That’s good for me. That means I’m that close to being where I need to be.”
Buchholz, who hurt a hamstring muscle on the first day of spring training, struck out four with two hits and no walks in his second preseason start. Farrell was pleased.
“Much better tempo,” Farrell said. “The fact that he pitches three solid innings puts him right back in line with the rest of the rotation and puts that whole hamstring thing behind him. I saw a number of good things from him today.”
Buchholz had an 11-8 record with a 4.56 ERA in 29 starts last season for Boston, but went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA in 2010 when Farrell worked for the Red Sox as the pitching coach.
“One thing I’ve been working on in between starts is trying to find that rhythm,” Buchholz said. “In the two light bullpens that I’ve thrown, that’s basically what we’ve worked on. I’ve tried to bring that into the game as much as I could.”
Red Sox closer Joel Hanrahan gave up four runs off four hits in one-third of an inning but Farrell said he wasn’t concerned.
“Fortunately I kept the ball down or else a couple would have ended up on Six Mile Cypress out there,” Hanrahan said, referring to the name of the road behind Hammond Stadium. “Spring training’s not my best thing.”
Hanrahan saved 40 games for the Pirates in 2011 and 36 last season before signing a one-year contract with the Red Sox in the offseason.
“When Clint Hurdle named me the closer in 2011, people were calling for my head,” Hanrahan said of his former manager in Pittsburgh. “I think I went out and had a terrible spring. That last week to 10 days, it kind of came back to me.”
Hanrahan will leave camp Sunday to be with his wife for the birth of their son.