FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox are banking on the idea that Daniel Bard can become a quality starting pitcher after spending the last three seasons in the bullpen.
Their offseason strategy centered around trading for Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon with the idea that Bard could slide into the rotation. Rather than sign a free agent starter, they attacked the problem from another angle.
For the plan to work, Bard has to successfully make the transition. Based on a brief conversation today, the righthander has dedicated himself to that process.
Bard threw in the bullpen this morning and said later it was the fifth or sixth time he has thrown off the mound this winter. Given that pitchers and catchers do not officially report until Sunday, Bard is well ahead of the game.
Bard has not started a game since 2007, when he got knocked around (3-7, 7.08 ERA) in Class A as a 22-year-old in his first year of pro ball. To become a starter now, he will have to build up his endurance and develop his changeup into a solid third pitch. That can only come with hard work and clearly he is putting in the time.
A few other observations from today’s workout:
• Jon Lester and Andrew Miller threw in the bullpen today as did Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Dice-K media crew is down to four hardy souls.
• It was a little surprising to see Adrian Gonzalez show up so early. Position players are not due until Feb. 23. Gonzo appeared much trimmer than he was at the end of last season.
• Ryan Lavarnway and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are here and working with the pitchers. Salty is still developing as a catcher and a hitter, but you can’t question the guy when it comes to caring about the pitchers and doing everything he can to get to know them.
Just a guess, but Salty is going to emerge as one of the leaders this season.
• Ryan Kalish is here working out but is not yet cleared to swing a bat as he recovers from labrum surgery.
• Ryan Westmoreland was on the field today getting his work in.
• Nothing to report on Tim Wakefield or Jason Varitek at this point.
• Other guys we spotted: Aaron Cook, Felix Doubront, Luis Exposito, Rich Hill, Daniel Nava and a big herd of minor leaguers.
Some readers, at least based on the comments on Nick’s post from earlier today, are angry at David Ortiz for getting $14.575 million from the Red Sox.
That anger is misdirected. The Red Sox offered Ortiz arbitration and he accepted it. At that point he was a signed player and it would be at a rate higher than the $12.5 million he received last season.
All Ortiz did was accept the offer and then instruct his agent to negotiate on his behalf. If you believe he’s being paid too much, blame the team. The player simply accepted what was offered to him because that was in his best interests.
Beyond that, here is what Ortiz made in his first five seasons with the Sox:
2003: $1.25 million
2004: $4.58 million
2005: $5.25 million
2006: $6.5 million
2007: $12.5 million
All he did in those five years was hit .302/.402/.612 with 208 home runs and 642 RBIs. Ortiz may prove to be overpaid in 2012 as a DH. But he was dramatically underpaid for a much longer period of time.