Josh Bard is back with the Red Sox and is looking forward to a fresh start in Boston.
The Red Sox formally announced today that they signed the veteran catcher, who had a brief stint with the club in 2006, to a non-guaranteed one-year contract for the 2009 season with a club option for ’10. This will be Bard’s second go-round with the Red Sox — he hit .278 in seven games with the club in ’06 after coming over from the Indians in the Coco Crisp deal that winter. However, he had trouble handling knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, and he was dealt along with reliever Cla Meredith to the Padres for catcher Doug Mirabelli on May 1 that season. Bard hit .338 with nine homers in 231 at-bats for the Padres after the trade.
“I think that going into the situation with [Wakefield] I think initially it felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders with every pitch that he threw and if I missed one the world was going to be over,” Bard said today on a conference call. “I think that with maturity, you understand that everybody misses knuckleballs every once in a while and if you miss one that’s [to be expected from time to time]. I think understanding that this time around will give me a lot better insight on how to do this thing.”
The club did not reveal the financial terms of the deal, but a source told the Globe’s Tony Massarotti Tuesday that Bard’s deal for ’09 is worth $1.7 million, with incentives that could bring it to within the range of $2.5 million.
Bard, 30, batted .202 with one home run and 16 RBIs in 57 games for the San Diego Padres last season. He made just 47 starts behind the plate as his playing time was limited by two stints on the disabled list. He was sidelined May 22-July 24 with a sprained left ankle and August 9-22 with a strained right triceps
Bard is the only current Red Sox catcher with significant big-league experience — George Kottaras has five at-bats in the majors — and it’s likely that another veteran backstop will be signed. It was reported previously that the Bard acquisition is not an indication that Jason Varitek will not return to the club.
Bard said today it was unclear what his role with the team will be this season, but he was hopeful he’d be catching more than once every five days.
“I think that this time it will be more than just catching [Wakefield], whether that means if we sign [Varitek] back whether that means spelling him on day games or catching more, I don’t know,” Bard said. ” [Terry Francona] was very up front about the fact that he’s not going to put a number on it and I think it comes down to, like any other team in this league, the better you play, the more you’re going to play. I know that opportunity is out there.”
In 2007, Bard batted .285 with five home runs and a career-high 51 RBIs. He also established personal bests in games (118), at-bats (389), runs (42), hits (111), doubles (27) and walks (50) and finished second in the National League with a .406 batting average with runners in scoring position.
Overall, he has a .265 batting average, with 28 home runs and 168 RBIs in 431 games with the Indians, Red Sox, and Padres.