The sad saga of Daniel Bard’s demise took what seemed to be an inevitable step with the Red Sox designating the righthander for assignment to make room for veteran infielder John McDonald, acquired in a deal with the Phillies Saturday night, and Quintin Berry, one of four players called up from Pawtucket Sunday.
Third baseman Brandon Snyder, catcher Ryan Lavarnway, and pitcher Rubby De La Rosa were also added to Boston’s roster.
Bard, who simply hasn’t been able to find the plate with any consistency in the minor leagues, is now in a 10-day limbo where he has to go through waivers. Any team can claim him, starting from descending order of record, first in the American League and then in the National League.
The Red Sox could let him go to the claiming team or work a deal with that team. If there are no claims he could return to the Sox, but off the 40-man roster.
Once considered the best set-up man in baseball, the decision to risk losing Bard was a tough one for the Red Sox.
“Given what he’s been able to do in the past and dealing with the struggles with consistency that are there, unfortunately he’s in the position he’s in. He won’t be able to pitch in Lowell until the waiver period expires. If he’s still in the organization – and we would hope that would be the case unless some other team puts in a claim and works out a trade for him – we haven’t turned our back on him and yet we needed the roster spot and hopefully that will get Daniel back on track and what he was at the big league level, which was a dominant one,” manager John Farrell said.
“Anytime there’s a human side of it, I don’t know if you can fully separate the two on a roster decision. It’s frustrating for all of us and no less frustrating for Daniel to go through the challenges that he’s been faced with. It’s an ongoing battle right now,” Farrell said.
At his best, Bard was lights-out. He seemed destined to be the team’s closer, but he elected and pushed for being a starting pitcher last season and that didn’t work.
“The weapon he emerged as and the flexibility Tito (Francona) had to use him in the seventh and eighth innings, in many ways he had the tougher job than the closer on many nights. To have that kind of power and ease in which he threw, the breaking ball he had in addition to 98-100 mph, yeah for two years he was as good as there was in the game,” Farrell said.
On path to be the closer?
“Everything pointed toward that. The fact there was a decision made – whether it was Daniel’s preference to start vs. close, it’s unfortunate things couldn’t continue as a late-inning guy given the success he had,” Farrell said.
Farrell knew there were problems when he returned to the team as manager. He thought there was a combination of delivery and confidence issues.
“We thought performance led to confidence. There were outings in spring training where he wasn’t too far off form what he’d been a year or two prior. As he was building momentum in spring training we thought there was one step yet left to make in terms of power and consistency. It looked like he was on his way, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. I’m sure he’s disappointed but I haven’t spoken to him,” Farrell said.
Asked if a change of scenery might do Bard some good, he said, “It can help, but to say that’s the sole reason that would be wishful thinking. You don’t want to throw something into the wind that if I I change uniforms and change cities everything is going to be answered. That’s running from the needs that are there.”
Berry will be mostly used as a pinch runner. He had successfully stolen 20 consecutive bases and had elite speed.
“We were looking for this type of player to round out our roster,” Farrell said.
Lavarnway will be used as a third catcher/pinch-hitter while De La Rosa could see some mop-up use or when the team is behind. More players are expected to get the call after Pawtucket is finished with the International League playoffs.