FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For Daniel Bard, moving from the bullpen into the rotation is not as complicated as it might appear from the outside. The righthander is convinced he will develop the durability and the necessary assortment of pitches to succeed.
It’s finding ways to kill all that extra time that Bard has trouble with.
As a reliever, Bard had to be ready to pitch every day. In that sense, he wasn’t much different than a position player. He would stretch, get his arm loose during batting practice and make his way out to the bullpen to watch the game and wait for his chance to pitch.
But starters are baseball’s independent contractors. They develop their own schedules and on the days they pitch, that routine is sacrosanct.
Outside of reviewing the game plan with the pitching coach and catcher, a starter is free to prepare for the game however he sees fit and baseball protocol requires his teammates to respect that.
Bard started a game today for the first time since 2007 when he was in the minor leagues. He arrived at JetBlue Park well before first pitch against the Baltimore Orioles unsure what he was supposed to do.
“It was a totally different feeling. I haven’t had it in years,” Bard said. “Getting to the park three hours before the game and having nothing to do for two hours is really weird.”
Bard busied himself asking his more veteran teammates for advice. Their message was that he had to find what suited him best.
Josh Beckett walks through the clubhouse holding a baseball and ignoring everybody around him. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz listen to music. Tim Wakefield used to do crossword puzzles. Curt Schilling demanded that nobody talk to him.
“[John] Lackey walks around with no pants on and bounces a baseball and eats peanut butter and jelly,” Bard said. I’ll just try and be me, whatever that is. Kind of find it. … I don’t think you ever quite figure out what to do with that time. Most guys try and keep their mind off the game.”
Bobby Valentine is hoping Bard adopts different customs than Lackey.
“Not the recommended routine before a game,” he said. “And not a real pretty sight in my imagination to tell you the truth.”
It worked out well for Bard today as he threw two shutout innings against a thin Baltimore lineup. He walked one, struck out two and threw 21 of his 31 pitches for strikes.
Bard is scheduled to pitch three innings against Tampa Bay on Saturday. The plan is to build up to six innings and be able to throw 100 pitches or so before the season starts.
By then, Bard hopes that his pre-start routine — one that involves pants — will be figured out. But even if that takes a little while to figure out, he’s confident in what lies ahead.
“I’m not going to go out and guarantee any great success, but I’m not going to rule it out, either,” Bard said. “I can tell you that in my mind, I don’t see any reason why I can’t go out and be as good as anybody on this staff, and we have some really good pitchers. I’m not going to put any caps on what my expectations are.”
For more on Bard, see tomorrow's Globe.