Bard getting his command back
Bard, 26, was taken in the first round (28 overall) of the 2006 first-year players draft.
In 2010 Bard led the American League with 32 holds and had a 1.93 ERA with 76 strikeouts to just 30 walks. He was named Fireman of the Year (best reliever) by the Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
He followed that up with a strong 2011 as his 34 holds was tied for first in the AL and third place in the majors. Marking the second season in a row he set the Sox single season mark for holds.
He went just 2-9, but his strikeouts (74) to walks (24) improved.
This year has been anything but fun for Bard who was optioned back to Triple-A Pawtucket on June 7.
Bard took the loss in his last start for Boston on June 3 against Toronto. A game that saw him give up five runs-one earned-on one hit, six walks and two hit batters in just 1.2 innings of work. The area of most concern right now is command.
Bard has 34 strikeouts and a somewhat alarming 37 free passes while with Boston.
"I'm not looking for perfection," Bard explained after Pawtucket's 6-1 win over Buffalo on Father's Day. "I'm really looking for a feel."
Bard took a huge step forward in the right direction on June 14 when he threw two clean inning of relief against the Buffalo Bisons. The most encouraging part of the outing was the fact that Bard had four strikeouts and just one walk. Bard worked the seventh and eighth innings, picking up a hold.
He induced a double play in the seventh then struck out the side in the eighth. Even the one walk he had didn't miss by much as the outing was clearly Bard's command was back.
"And it was back," Pawtucket pitching coach Rich Sauveur said. "If you look at the walk, other than the slider that was down (to make it 0-1 count), he threw three fast balls that were just above the zone. Yeah, they were balls. But the thing was that they were just above the zone. They weren't out of reach of the catcher, nobodys ducking out of the way. They were decent, decent pitches. I was real pleased with that and obviously he gets the double play ball and a strike out to end the (seventh) inning and of course the three punch outs in the (eighth) inning. I was very happy with what he did. I think it's a big step for him just to get the confidence back."
Bard agreed, saying that outing felt more like what he knows he is capable of doing on the mound.
"I was able to make the adjustment to the next hitter. That's the key," Bard said. "That's what I struggled with earlier in the year. It was taking me 10, 12 pitches just to make the adjustments. You're gonna walk a guy here and there, but if you make the adjustments through the next three or four pitches you're gonna save yourself a lot of trouble."
Bard said that as far back a spring training he felt as if his delivery wasn't where he wanted it to be.
And that the issues of command being off and a dip in his velocity went hand in hand.
Regularly hitting the mid 90's this weekend in Buffalo, Bard appears to be back on track.
Sauveur said the key at the moment is Bard just regaining the command and confidence that made him so effective for Boston the past two seasons.
Bard was back on the hill again for Pawtucket on Sunday June 17. He worked two scoreless innings and though he gave up back-to-back single in the seventh with two outs he worked his way out of the mini jam damage free as he got Bison catcher Lucas May to fly out to right field.
He threw 20 of his 29 pitches for strikes and worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
Bard said that coming back to Triple-A has given him a chance to take a breath, get in some quality innings and regain his form.
"It boils down to I'm down here and for whatever it's worth I've got time to find my game," he said. "And I feel like I'm doing that."