The Red Sox have optioned struggling No. 5 starter Daniel Bard to Triple A Pawtucket.
Bard was 5-6 with a 5.24 earned run average. He walked 37 and hit eight over 55 innings with only 34 strikeouts. He had a disastrous outing on Sunday against Toronto, walking six and hitting two over 1 2/3 innings. The one hit he allowed was a three-run homer by Jose Bautista.
The Red Sox staff met to talk about Bard on Monday and again today. Bobby Valentine said the righthander wanted to stay in the majors and work out his mechanical issues but understood the team's position.
"Just felt the best thing for the organization and Daniel was get in an environment where he could just work on that mechanic and not have to worry about the big league record and his teammates. I think itíll be a quick turnaround," Valentine said. " He had a real good frame of mind. Didnít think it was necessary to really have an assignment, he thought he could kind of find it on the fly. Weíre going to take the conservative route."
The team has not yet decided when Bard will pitch for Pawtucket. Valentine said that Bard remains a starter.
"What came out of the conversation today was that weíll stay with the idea that heís a starter and see how he develops," Valentine said. "Thereís a lot of building blocks, a lot of good things that have happened here that he can still build on. It seems like itís just around the corner."
Bard's decline in velocity is something that concerns the Red Sox. He was one of the hardest throwers in baseball as a reliever and is only average as a starter.
"Thatís part of the mechanical mystery," Valentine said. "There are times in the bullpen when he has everything in synch and he's able to crank it up. Between the windup and the stretch and center stage, it seems like he gets out of that a little. Thatís one of the things heíll be searching for to try and nail down. So when he wants to, he can add a little."
Bard will not report to Pawtucket today. The team will meet with him on Wednesday to map out a plan. Pitching coach Bob McClure said he is personally in favor of Bard getting right back on the mound, perhaps in shorter, more-frequent stints to try and solve his mechanical and mental issues.
"Coming out of spring training, there was kind of one thought, really. Basically get on line and attack the strike zone and don't try and be too fine," he said. "I think that's basically what he needs to do, what he wants to do and what he's trying to get back to doing.
"The more often the better, too. It might be better to pitch him every other day or two innings at a time then two days off. Those are some of the decisions we need to find what's best for him."
McClure said Bard needs to find his natural arm slot. Bard is better when he's higher and lately he has been dropping down too much.
"When he's lower it's harder and not as accurate," McClure said. "That's why you saw the velocity down a little bit, too. ... He was kind of caught in between a little bit."
McClure said in general that Bard was trying to do too much.
"When I talked to him a little bit, it was [to say] keep it simple, what got you to this point is what you need to get back to whatever, whether it's a starter or a reliever. Not trying to do too many things." McClure said. "Attack the strike zone, maybe with just two pitches and perhaps a third with the changeup. ... The best thing he can do is, from a mental standpoint, is just keeping it simple. Not trying to do too many things with too many pitches."
Dos McClure believe Bard can still be a starter?
"I think he can start. I might be one of the few that thinks that he can. But I really do," he said. "No. 1, he needs to keep it simple. He's a power pitcher with two plus pitches and perhaps a third one. Anyone who can throw 100 pitches like he could with the ease he was doing it at one point definitely has the possibility of starting."
The Sox have not named a starter for Saturday's game against Washington. But Daisuke Matsuzaka will be limited to three innings in his start for Pawtucket tonight. If that goes well, it is likely the righthander would take Bard's spot in the rotation.
Outfielder Darnell McDonald was activated off the disabled list to take Bard's spot on the roster.