FORT MYERS, Fla. — In his previous spring trainings, few would have taken notice Daniel Bard throwing live batting practice for the first time. But on Saturday, when the righthander took the mound on Field 3, a large crowd gathered.
Red Sox manager John Farrell was watching, as were several members of the baseball operations staff, general manager Ben Cherington among them. Television cameras were on hand, too.
Once a premier relief pitcher, Bard became a starter last season and quickly regressed. His velocity fell off sharply and then his control vanished. So alarming were the results that he was sent to Triple A Pawtucket for three months.
Bard is now back in the bullpen and has been throwing well since arriving in camp. On Saturday, with minor leaguers Jeremy Hazelbaker and Jonathan Diaz at the plate, Bard needed a few pitches before he started to consistently throw strikes with some zip to them. It was a productive session, another step.
“Felt good,” Bard said. “Just trying to work the kinks out. Once I settled in, I felt fine. … The focus was just being in the strike zone as much as possible, trying to be down with everything. The second half I was pretty pleased with. I felt like I accomplished most of those goals.”
The Red Sox have told Bard not to make every trip to the mound a trial.
“One of the things we’ve talked to Daniel about is let’s not make this a story every day,” Cherington said. “He’s a healthy pitcher getting ready for the season. Understand what happened last year, that he’s of interest. But there’s a lot of other guys like him just trying to get ready for the season and he’s back in a role that should be comfortable for him. I think he feels like every day feels a little better.
Farrell downplayed the importance of the session.
“Just getting consistent with his timing. He had a good feel for his secondary pitches. Again, it’s just BP, I don’t want to overanalyze it too much.”