Sunday, March 9, 2014
Maybe the Red Sox should summon advance scout Mike Cather to work again with Daniel Bard.
Bard is 0-3 with a 17.36 ERA in September, after giving up 3 runs in the 8th inning, in a 5-4 loss to Toronto. He has 5 BB in 4 2/3 innings pitched.
Bard says he can fix this. He says he has fixed it before.
The big fix came before the 2008 season. Working with Cather, then the Sea Dogs pitching coach, Bard was looking for solutions. In his first pro season in 2007, Bard walked 78 in 75 innings in Class A (a 10.13 ERA in advanced Class A; 6.42 ERA after a demotion to low Class A).
Bard reached Portland in 2008, then Boston in 2009.
My story on Cather and Bard (May 25, 2008) is at the bottom of the blog.
The Red Sox lost, but so did the Rays and Yankees. Here are the standings:
New York 90-58
Boston 86-62 (4 back)
Tampa Bay 82-66 (8)
Tampa Bay 82-66 (4 back)
LA Angels 82-67 (4.5)
New York's magic number to clinch the division: 11.
Boston's magic number to clinch the wild card: 12.
NEW YORK (14): at Toronto (3), Minnesota (1), Tampa Bay (4), Boston (3), at Tampa Bay (3).
BOSTON (14): Tampa Bay (4), Baltimore (4), at New York (3), at Baltimore (3).
TAMPA BAY (14): at Boston (4), at New York (4), Toronto (3), New York (3).
The playoff seeds at the moment:
1. New York 90-58
2. Detroit 87-62
3. Texas 85-64
4. Boston (wild card)
Now for the Bard story from over three years ago:
By KEVIN THOMAS
It was the equivalent of a late-night horror movie.
Sometime past midnight, Daniel Bard turned on the television in his Honolulu hotel room. He wasn't shocked to see a replay of the Honolulu Sharks game, but the scene of the pitcher's motion caused shivers.
Daniel Bard watched himself and saw trouble.
''I had not seen myself pitch for a while, and that just didn't look right, '' Bard said.
''The next day I went to Cat (pitching coach Mike Cather) and told him what I saw. He agreed. From that day we started to make adjustments.''
Bard, 23, a Boston Red Sox first-round pick out of the University of North Carolina in 2006, complete with a $1.5 million signing bonus, has made those adjustments work. He recently was promoted to Portland, where he is again effortlessly throwing his 98 mph fastball for strikes.
Granted, Bard and others figured he would have been in Portland sooner.
''You're a first-round pick, your goals are high, '' Bard said of last season. ''My goal was obviously big leagues by the end of the year.
''Then things didn't start out so well.''
Although Bard didn't play after he signed late in 2006, Boston had big plans, sending him straight to advanced Class A Lancaster, Calif., in 2007.
Lancaster is a hitter's paradise with gusting winds to right field. And Bard got blasted, posting a 10.13 ERA in five starts, allowing 21 hits and 22 walks in 131/3 innings.
Bard wants to make one thing clear.
''It was not the ballpark that led to my struggles, '' he said. ''It was all me.''
Bard is kind. It wasn't all him. The Red Sox tinkered with Bard's delivery, trying for a more over-the-top motion. He never got comfortable. Even when he was sent to lower Class A Greenville, Bard posted a 6.42 ERA and 56 walks in 612/3 innings.
''I can't point fingers at anyone, '' Bard said of the unsuccessful delivery. ''Everyone wanted it to work out and it didn't.''
Those who knew Bard couldn't understand his 2007 numbers. Sea Dogs first baseman Aaron Bates, a 2006 draft pick out of North Carolina State, faced Bard in college and in the Cape Cod League.
''Last year when he struggled, I had never seen him like that before, '' Bates said. ''Every time he pitched against us, he had great games.''
Boston sent Bard to the Hawaiian Winter League and wanted him to work out of the bullpen.
''He came in intent on making it a good experience, '' said Cather, the Sea Dogs' pitching coach who was also sent to Hawaii.
When Bard saw himself on TV and saw how wayward his delivery had become, he approached Cather. But you don't just start messing around with a $1.5 million investment.
Cather watched video of Bard before 2007, then consulted other Red Sox pitching coaches, including the minor-league roving instructor, Ralph Treuel.
''We started putting together an idea of how to approach it, '' Cather said.
Bard leveled his shoulders, became more balanced and brought his arm slot back down to a three-quarters position.
In Hawaii, Bard recorded a 1.08 ERA. Boston decided to put Bard in the bullpen and send him back to Greenville to begin the 2008 season. He dominated with a 0.64 ERA, with 43 strikeouts and only four walks in 28 innings.
Instead of worrying about throwing strikes, Bard could simply pitch, mixing his four-seam fastball that reaches 100 mph, his two-seam fastball with movement, and a developing curve and change-up.
''You're not going to be confident if you're not comfortable on the mound, '' Bard said. ''It's a comfort thing and I'm starting to find it this year.''
Instead of moving on to Lancaster, Bard skipped a level and joined the Sea Dogs last week.
''We felt that with his experience and age, as well as evaluating his performance in the bullpen in Greenville, that he could handle the jump to Portland, '' said Mike Hazen, the Red Sox director of player development.
Bard has made three relief appearances for the Sea Dogs and has eight strikeouts in five innings, walking one and allowing two hits, one a home run.
He appears back on track, a road that eventually will get him to Boston as a starter or reliever.
''Right now I'm in the 'pen so I'm trying to be the best reliever I can be, '' Bard said, pleased to be talking about his role rather than his past struggles.
''The key thing, '' he said, ''is I never found my identity in the way I was throwing last year. I knew that was not me.
''I knew I was a better pitcher than how I was throwing. I tried to never lose sight of that.''
Kevin Thomas covers baseball and basketball for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. He wisely moved to Maine in 1994 after working for the St. Petersburg Times. He is married to Nancy and they have nine children.
Follow his thoughts on the Boston Red Sox and Portland Sea Dogs on Clearing the Bases
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