The Chicago Cubs have claimed righthander Daniel Bard off waivers from the Red Sox.
The 28-year-old Bard has been battling control problems for the better part of two years and was designated for assignment Sunday. The Cubs picked up the remainder of his contract for this season and with it the right to offer him arbitration and retain his rights.
Bard was on outright waivers, not trade waivers. So the Red Sox receive no compensation beyond not having to pay the remainder of his contract this season.
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and assistant general manager Jason McLeod have extensive experience with Bard from their time with the Red Sox. They drafted Bard in the first round out of North Carolina in 2006 and shepherded his rise to the majors.
Bard was one of baseball’s top relief pitchers from 2009-11, appearing in 192 games for the Red Sox. He struck out 213 over 197 innings while allowing only 132 hits.
When Jonathan Papelbon left the Red Sox as a free agent after the 2011 season, Bard appeared to be a logical choice to become the next closer, given his high-octane fastball and a wipeout slider.
But Bard lobbied the Red Sox for a chance to start, and general manager Ben Cherington agreed. Disaster followed.
Despite mixed results in spring training that included an alarming drop in velocity and the lack of a reliable third pitch, Bard started the 2012 season in the rotation. He was 4-6 with a 5.30 earned run average in 10 starts. Over 54.1 innings, Bard walked 36, hit eight, and struck out out only 34.
On June 3, 2012, Bard could not get through the second inning of a start in Toronto. He walked six and hit two batters along with giving up a home run. The Red Sox sent him to Triple A Pawtucket four days later.
Bard has not been the same since, struggling mightily to throw strikes. The Red Sox returned him to the bullpen and he pitched in six major league games at the end of the 2012 season with poor results.
The Sox sent Bard to Double A Portland to start this season, saying at the time that he had more work to do. The team then made the curious decision to recall Bard to the majors after only eight appearances in the Eastern League that were not particularly impressive.
Bard had a successful inning against the Astros on April 25. But when he pitched again on April 27, he walked two batters on nine pitches and was taken out of the game and returned to Portland two days later.
His control problems became even worse from there. Bard walked five of the eight batters he faced in a game May 15. The Red Sox then shut him down and eventually said he had an oblique strain.
Bard did not pitch again until Aug. 26 in a Gulf Coast League game. In two GCL games and then a game for Rookie League Lowell, Bard faced 17 batters and walked 10 of them. He also threw three wild pitches.
From the start of the 2012 season, in all games, Bard has walked 101, hit 18, and thrown 21 wild pitches over 107.2 innings. He does have 80 strikeouts, so perhaps the Cubs can unlock the talent that is still remaining.