FORT MYERS, Fla. — John Farrell offered some insight into how the Red Sox are rebuilding Daniel Bard. The first step is to get him to attack hitters with the ferocity he once did.
His three strikeouts against Northeastern (and 13 strikes on 18 pitches) would seem to be evidence that is working.
“We went from a guy that was ultra-aggressive, ultra-confident to one, with the change in role, came a change in mind-set,” Farrell said. “We’re getting back to shorter stints, the aggressor mentality. I know that’s something he set out to not only establish but to regain and prove. Today was the first step in that process.”
Farrell was the Red Sox pitching coach when Bard debuted with the team in 2009. After two years of mixed messages from an assortment of pitching coaches, Bard trusts what Farrell and new pitching coach Juan Nieves are telling him.
He also isn’t trying to regain everything at once. Bard touched 94 miles per hour with his fastball today. That’s better than what it usually was last season, but not close to the velocity he featured as a reliever in 2011.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight. The one thing that we want to do is establish the aggressiveness first,” Farrell said. “If we have to make adjustments to gain more consistent command, that might be the case. First step is more from the mentality side of things.”
Bard welcomes the idea that he has to prove himself and earn a spot in the bullpen.
“That’s a good thing,” he said. “The last time I really came into camp with something to prove was my first big league spring training in ’09. I was not supposed to make the team by any means. I had a lot of people that I needed to impress in my mind and I was able to come out and do that.”
Bard’s fastball command was a little inconsistent against Northeastern but he regained his arm slot by throwing a slider.
Farrell said that Bard stays on top of the ball when he throws the slider and that helps him adjust.
Bard was asked his assessment of Red Sox camp to this point. His answer was interesting.
“It feels relaxed, man,” Bard said. “The guys that have been the mainstays: Me, Salty, David, Pedey — are all competitive but I think we play best when we’re a little bit relaxed. The guys they brought in — Johnny, Shane — they seem to have a lot of fun playing the game. I think that’s what we were missing last year and maybe the year before a little bit. I think we have a group of guys who want to have fun.”