PORTLAND – Daniel Bard won’t be the only player with major league experience in a Sea Dogs uniform Thursday night when Portland opens its season at Hadlock Field at 6.
Boston Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew will play for the Sea Dogs on a rehab assignment that could last through Sunday, according to reports from media covering the Red Sox.
Drew, 30, who signed a $9.5 million one-year contract with Boston in the offseason, missed most of spring training after suffering a concussion when he was hit by a pitch March 7.
He was cleared to play two days ago and has taken part in extended spring training games in Fort Myers, Fla.
Before Wednesday night’s Red Sox-New York Yankees game, Boston Manager John Farrell said Drew will be in Portland Thursday night.
Farrell said he hopes Drew can play in the Red Sox home opener Monday.
The Sea Dogs will open their season with a seven-game homestand at Hadlock Field.
Drake Britton will start for Portland Thursday night. Starters this time of year rarely go deep into the game, so the Sea Dogs will be using a few relievers.
One of those could be Bard, 27, certainly a familiar face both in Portland and Boston.
Bard pitched here in 2008 and was in the big leagues the next year.
In 2010, Bard was the setup man for closer Jonathan Papelbon and recorded a 1.93 ERA.
In 2011, Bard set a Red Sox record with 25 consecutive scoreless appearances.
In 2012, the Red Sox moved Bard into a starting role and it didn’t work out (4-6, 5.30 ERA). The Red Sox sent him to Triple-A Pawtucket.
When Bard returned as a reliever, he wasn’t the same pitcher (nine earned runs in seven appearances).
Under Farrell and new pitching coach Juan Nieves, Bard has worked to regain his form this spring. The results were mixed.
“They told me there were flashes of being really good in spring training,” Bard said. “Even the outings I gave up a couple of runs, I still felt like I was throwing the ball pretty well.
“Maybe just that little bit more consistency (is needed). It comes with repetition and putting in the work between outings. That’s what we’ll do here.”
Bard was surprised at first to hear he was being sent to Double-A.
“When they told me, I wanted an explanation and they gave that,” Bard said. “A big reason was coming to work with (Sea Dogs pitching coach) Bob Kipper. He was with me in ’08 in A ball. That’s kind of when things clicked for me and I was able to take off in the minor leagues.
“He’s a good guy to work with, a great guy to be around every day. Positive. Reinforces all the good things you’re doing. I’m excited to work with him.”
Bard, a first-round draft pick in 2006, made his pro debut with Kipper in Lancaster, Calif., then the advanced Class A affiliate for Boston.
Bard struggled mightily (10.13 ERA). He was sent down to lower Class A Greenville and the results weren’t much better (6.42).
Bard worked on his mechanics (with former Sea Dogs pitching coach Mike Cather) in the Hawaiian fall league and entered spring training in 2008 a different pitcher.
“He did a 180,” Kipper said. “The simple things he identified with his delivery allowed it to be more repeatable. When you’re successful, success breeds confidence, and we’ve seen what he can do with confidence.”
Kipper coached Bard in Greenville in 2008. Bard had a 0.64 ERA in 15 games and was sent to Portland. He skyrocketed to Boston and shined until last year.
“We’re talking about a man who is exceptionally talented. That has not changed,” Kipper said. “We’re trying to get back to simple. When an athlete is at their best, their game is simple.”
Kipper said there is a difference to developing Bard in 2007-08 and tweaking him now.
“The baseline is totally different,” Kipper said. “In ’07 we were talking about a young man with no professional experience. Now we’re talking about a man with three years at the major league level under his belt and, at one time, being one of the most dominant setup guys in baseball.
“That will serve him well. The goal is to reclaim dominance. I believe wholeheartedly that this young man will reclaim dominance.”
NOTES: It’s not known how Drew’s presence will affect the lineup. If he’s the designated hitter for a game, then top prospect Xander Bogaerts plays shortstop. If Drew plays short, then Bogaerts may be the DH. Other likely starters include catcher Christian Vazquez, first baseman Travis Shaw, second baseman Heiker Meneses, and either Michael Almanzar or Kolbrin Vitek at third base. Manager Kevin Boles will pick three starters from the outfield group of Shannon Wilkerson, Peter Hissey, Ronald Bermudez and Tony Thomas.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: