Daniel Bard appeared in 22 of the first 44 games this season, a pace that would give him 81 appearances on the season — eight more than last season.
He also has pitched 23 innings, more than all but five relievers in the American League. That’s a pace that would give him 85 this season — 9.1 more than last season.
Eight appearances and 9.1 innings may not sound like a lot. But Bard is 26 and has been pitching in relief for only four seasons. If you look at the Red Sox as a business, and that is very much what they are, he is one of the company’s most valuable assets.
To put it in perspective, the only AL reliever who appeared in more than 75 games last season was lefty specialist Randy Choate. The only one who pitched more than 79 innings was Tony Pena of the White Sox. He has a 5.60 ERA this season.
Bard also had pitched four times in the previous eight days, throwing 95 pitches, and struggled on Thursday, giving up to homers. So the decision was made before the game to rest him for a second straight night. Deciding so beforehand, Terry Francona said, takes the emotion out of it.
“It’ll do him a world of good,” Francona said. “It didn’t do us a world of good tonight.”
Not one bit. Given the responsibility of protecting a 3-1 lead, Matt Albers could not get an out. The Cubs sent 12 men to the plate in the eighth inning and scored eight runs. It was the first time this season the Sox had a lead after seven innings and didn’t hold it.
It was a bit of a circus as the Sox committed three errors and looked as silly as those all-white throwback uniforms some overeager marketing whiz decided were a good idea.
Albers was a good choice, He had a 1.56 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP in 11 appearances this season. He also was the only choice. Bard was out. Scott Atchison also was out, having thrown three innings on Friday. Dan Wheeler and Rich Hill had already been used.
That left Albers, Franklin Morales and Jonathan Papelbon.
You don’t use your closer for a two-inning save on May 21 without a day off on the horizon. Morales had arrived in town the previous day having thrown one pitch over the last week. It was Albers, do or die.
Francona will take the heat on this one. It’s your call whether you think he should or not. But the manager of a $161 million team is charged with winning a championship, not one game in May.
If we presume the Red Sox are going to be contention in September, do you want Bard feeling like his arm is hanging by a thread or ready to go?
Bard said he wanted to pitch. But he admitted a few seconds later that was his competitive nature talking and not common sense. The manager is the guy in charge of common sense. And sometimes that means Matt Albers in the eighth inning and sometimes that means a loss.
If the alternative is Bard getting an MRI down the road and visiting Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion, I’ll take the loss.