THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

A taste of future for Bard?

He adds finishing touch in closer role

Daniel Bard (right) worked a scoreless ninth to earn his second save of the season and the congratulations of his teammates. Daniel Bard (right) worked a scoreless ninth to earn his second save of the season and the congratulations of his teammates. (Tony Dejak/Associated Press)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / June 9, 2010

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CLEVELAND — Daniel Bard has a new title, at least temporarily. But in his mind, the job hasn’t changed.

With Jonathan Papelbon attending to a family matter, Bard is the temporary closer of the Red Sox and as such, it fell to him to get the final three outs against the Indians last night.

He succeeded and the Sox came away with a 3-2 victory. It was the second save for Bard this season and the third of his career.

But the 25-year-old righthander didn’t seem too impressed. One swing could have lost the game, but being a setup man often presents far greater challenges.

On Saturday, for instance, Bard was sent into a game against Baltimore with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh, with the Sox leading, 1-0.

Now that’s an obstacle course. But Bard conquered it by getting two popups. Facing the Indians with the bases empty to start the ninth was relatively stress-free by comparison.

“Pitching in the eighth with a one-run lead or coming in with a couple of guys on base, the feeling is not too much different,’’ he said. “I’ve got to pitch the same way regardless. Every pitch matters.’’

Bard did make it a little tougher on himself, walking Russell Branyan with one out. But he froze Shelley Duncan with a 3-and-2 breaking pitch for a called third strike before getting Luis Valbuena to ground to second.

Bard wasn’t sure what to call the final pitch he threw to Duncan. “It was supposed to be a slider but it came out like a curve,’’ he said.

Duncan, who homered in the seventh, stepped toward first but umpire Mike Everitt called him out.

“That was a big pitch,’’ Bard said.

Ramon Ramirez, who ended a Cleveland threat by getting the final out of the eighth, wasn’t worried.

“Everybody on this team knows Bard can do the job,’’ Ramirez said.

Bard who often wears a Nike T-shirt that reads, “I’m That Dude’’ on the front could one day be the closer and appreciated the chance to see how it felt.

“With Pap gone, I see it as a good opportunity to pitch in that role because you never know what’s going to happen down the road or happen even this year,’’ he said. “Injuries, stuff like that. Crazy things happen.’’

Bard is certainly pitching like a closer. In 32 innings he has allowed only 17 hits while striking out 34.

“This has been a guy that, regardless of the inning, we’ve leaned on him in situations with the game on the line,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “It’s such a huge benefit for us that we have a guy we can bring in in the seventh with a couple of men on and he can get out of it. This certainly won’t hurt his experience.

“The experience he’s gotten in the last year, the situations of the game don’t speed up on him, and his stuff’s terrific.’’

Bard enjoyed playing a small role in history as the save secured the win for Tim Wakefield on the night he passed Roger Clemens for most innings pitched in franchise history.

“I’m happy for him. It’s a special thing and Wake’s a special guy,’’ Bard said. “He will be remembered for a long time, also for what he’s done off the field for the organization. It’s pretty cool to be able to witness that.’’

Now comes the tricky part for the Red Sox. Bard has pitched in three of the last four games, throwing 52 pitches. He is not likely to be available tonight.

Francona will have to figure something out. Papelbon is probably out until Friday at the earliest. Manny Delcarmen, who came out of Sunday’s game with a sore back, will throw in the bullpen today. Hideki Okajima, who got one out in the eighth last night, has been erratic.

“We’ll do the best we can,’’ Francona said. “Hopefully we won’t need a closer.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com.

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