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Bard’s view hasn’t changed

After Jamey Carroll (left) reached third base in the eighth, Daniel Bard came on to get the Red Sox out of the jam. After Jamey Carroll (left) reached third base in the eighth, Daniel Bard came on to get the Red Sox out of the jam. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / April 24, 2012
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MINNEAPOLIS - If he was running for president, Daniel Bard would have excellent favorability ratings.

He has transitioned well from his setup role to starter, but should Bard be a flip-flopper? Could he be viewed as Boston’s savior, the man who could rescue the Red Sox bullpen?

Monday night, in a 6-5 win over the Twins, he was all that.

Manager Bobby Valentine had contemplated where and when would he use Bard, who had agreed to make one relief appearance before his next start Friday night in Chicago after his Sunday start vs. the Yankees had been postponed.

Former manager Terry Francona used to say that Bard pitched the toughest innings and the toughest situations. That happened Monday night. He came on in the eighth inning in a 5-5 game with one out and with Jamey Carroll at third base after Ryan Sweeney misplayed Carroll’s single down the right-field line for a two-base error.

Lefty Franklin Morales, who started the inning and gave up the hit to Carroll, got Joe Mauer to ground to first, and then Valentine called on Bard to face the red-hot Josh Willingham. Willingham ran the count to 3-2 and hit it on the button, but right at Kevin Youkilis at third.

After Bard intentionally walked Justin Morneau, Ryan Doumit popped to shortstop Mike Aviles in short left-center to end the inning and preserve the tie.

Bard, who got the win, threw 11 pitches and didn’t get to work the ninth. That was left to closer Alfredo Aceves, who got the save after Cody Ross hit the go-ahead homer in the ninth.

“Yeah, it felt like the same thing I’ve done the last few years,’’ Bard said.

“I was in jams in my last start and I worked out of those. It’s just that I was a lot fresher because I hadn’t thrown that many pitches. I was trying to strike out Willingham. I made a 3-2 pitch and he did a good job to get the barrel on it. He hit a good pitch.’’

Did he take a different approach now that he’s been a starting pitcher?

“I had my pitching mind-set,’’ he said. “Same deal you’re just trying to get outs. You just have little time to get warmed up.’’

Valentine said he gave some thought to leaving Bard in for the ninth. He told Bard if the game remained tied he would go back out, but if Boston took the lead Aceves was in.

“Little weird just being out there because I haven’t been out there,’’ Bard said. “But it was like riding a bike. I had an established routine the last three years so it was easy to get back into it. You get that feeling again of winning games is great.’’

Where do the Sox go from here with Bard?

It’s obvious he may be the only reliever they have who could wiggle out of that type of jam. It was easy to see his value.

You won’t see him rushing into the manager’s office volunteering to become the closer, because he really views himself a starter now.

Everyone knows what the common-sense answer is to Boston’s bullpen dilemma - have Bard close and place Aaron Cook, who improved to 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA after a win Monday night in Pawtucket - in the starting rotation.

Bard, who told Valentine that he would not be agreeable to back-to-back appearances because of health concerns (since he hasn’t done it all year) likely will be shut down now until he makes his start Friday. But is that the best use of him?

“I asked a lot of questions as to what their goals were in this,’’ Bard said before the game. “They said right now they had every intention of it being temporary and that I’d make my start on Friday. That’s where I’m at right now. I still view myself as a starter and they said they do, too. It’s where they said they want me in the long run. For now, they want to address a need for a couple of days, keep me from going 10 days without throwing. I told them I was OK with it for now.’’

“That’s the one thing I told them right away,’’ Bard added. “I’m totally willing to do this and told them it’s their decision how to use me, so I was OK with it. I’m not going to be able to make eight guys pitch better. I can do what I can and if that offers some comfort, maybe it can help everybody. I think that’s the goal.’’

Bard has said his future is “not for me to decide. I feel I’ve done my job as a starter. They’re trying to address a need and whether or not I can completely turn everything around down there is to be determined.’’

And now that he’s made a successful return?

“I’m not reading too much into it right now,’’ he said. “I know I can start. I know my value to this team in throwing 150-200 innings a year rather than 65-70 out of the pen.’’

Not sure any of us agree.

And Monday night only proved where his value is even more.

So Bard has to feel good about his importance because he is one of the best pitchers on the team. His versatility might be Boston’s life jacket during these very tough times. It’s understandable why a pitcher wants to be a starter. It’s far more glamorous. It’s far more lucrative.

Setup men get paid well, but not like a starter. To get paid as a closer, you have to keep proving yourself.

When you take away a starting role, you’re taking away a small fortune. The player knows it, management knows it. Which is why in this case, management is tip-toeing around the situation. They don’t want to damage Bard’s confidence, and they won’t if they present it to him the right way.

It might be coming to that. And Bard must know it is. He’s just hoping a minor miracle occurs and the bullpen turns it around between now and then.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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