Re: A Realistic look at 2012: Part I
posted at 4/3/2012 10:17 AM EDT
When the Red Sox were analyzing Jonathan Papelbon's foray into starting during the 2007 spring training, it was determined that his third pitch, the curveball, was never going to be good enough to rely on more than a few times an outing. Bard had to show the Sox his third-best offering, the changeup, wasn't in the same classification. Sunday, the righty went a long way in accomplishing that feat.
Bard only threw 10 changeups in his outing against Toronto, a few of which went horribly awry. But for the most part he was not only able to control the pitch, it actually proved to be of swing-and-miss quality. Add in the fact that he was able to use a two-seamer for pitch count purposes, and, despite the five runs allowed, Bard did exhibit the qualities the team was looking for when evaluating the pitcher's ability to start a game.
He got swings and misses on his slider when facing right-handed hitters, got whiffs from lefties when throwing the changeup and ground balls when using the two-seamer. As Valentine noted, Bard looked like a starter. Case closed.
What should be understood if Bard does end up in the rotation is that there are going to be these types of six-inning, five-run outings along the way. When Texas moved C.J. Wilson to the rotation from the bullpen, one of the things that made it work was the lefty's understanding that there were multiple elements that had to be considered if he was to make the change.
Ask the Rangers folks what made Wilson's switch work and they will point to the pitcher's intelligence. Bard is cut from the same cloth.
While many might think the success Bard has enjoyed since 2009 is strictly a product of his 100 mph arm, the fact is that he has adjusted and grown as a pitcher along the way. When he went through his worst slump as a major leaguer during the latter months of '11, it wasn't because he suddenly didn't know what he was doing. That bump in the road was due to an inability to physically keep his arm slot at a high level due to fatigue, causing a three-quarters delivery that, in turn made the plane of his pitches easier for hitters to identify.
And there will be more adjustments. But, even with Alfredo Aceves' electric stuff and extensive pitch-mix, it is Bard who has the best chance to enter into the world of top-of-the-rotation starter. It might take some time, but whether they believe it or not, it's a wait that should be worthwhile