FORT MYERS, Fla. — From where he was standing at shortstop, Mike Aviles had a good view of how Daniel Bard pitched against the Minnesota Twins on Friday.
In his estimation, Aviles saw a pitcher who deserves a chance to be starting for the Red Sox. Bard threw a variety of pitches, maintained his velocity and went deep into the game.
Over six innings, Bard allowed three runs on six hits with three walks and seven strikeouts. If not for bloop single that fell over third base in the sixth inning, Bard would have allowed only two runs.
“There’s so much potential there because his stuff is so electric,” Aviles said. “He’s throwing his fastball 96 and he has two sliders from what I can see. He has one with a little bend in it and one that’s really tight.
“With the second one, when he throws it a little harder, you have zero chance on that. It’s kind of like having an extra pitch. That’s some really good stuff.”
That Bard is working as a starter for the first time since 2007 impresses Aviles even more.
“I feel like he’s taking to it really well and with each start he’s getting more comfortable,” the shortstop said. “If he looks this good now, what will he look like in a month or two?”
Indications are that Felix Doubront and Bard will claim the two open spots in the rotation, although manager Bobby Valentine hasn’t said that. The Red Sox also are considering Alfredo Aceves and to a lesser degree veteran Aaron Cook.
Valentine said before the game on Friday that Bard has proven to the team that he is capable of starting. Afterward, he praised the progress Bard has made.
“He wanted to come here and build and figure out all those nuances. I don't know that he figured them all out — you still have to have some growing pains and experience — but I think physically, he got to be where he wants to be and he's a smart kid,” Valentine said.
But Valentine wouldn’t bite at questions about what the rotation will be next week when the season starts.
Bard allowed an RBI double by Joe Mauer in the first inning. He then set down 13 of the next 14 batters, seven by strikeout. Bard needed only 31 pitches to navigate through the third, fourth and fifth innings.
His command wavered in a 27-pitch sixth inning as two walks and two singles gave the Twins two runs. In all, Bard threw 95 pitches, 55 for strikes.
“I felt good, really had four pitches working for me through a good chunk of the game,” Bard said. “Kind of really cruising up until the sixth.
“There are still some decisions to be made. But I really do feel like I’ve gotten better with each start. Throw the numbers aside, just how I’m throwing the ball, my comfortability on the mound. That’s what I’m focused on, just keep getting better.”
Committing to Bard will require a leap of faith for the Red Sox given his 6.57 ERA and 16 walks in 24.2 innings this spring. But the Red Sox will look more at what he could be, not what he did in exhibition games.
Bard admitted he was feeling some tension before the game, knowing it would affect the team’s decision. But once he was finished, there was relief and an eye on what will come next.
“There was something riding on for me today,” Bard said. “It was more personal, what my role’s going to be. But at some point this year hopefully I’m pitching in a big game and there’s a lot more riding on it and it’s team-oriented.”
See the Globe tomorrow for more on Bard.