Sunday, June 3, 2012
What to do with Daniel Bard
The Bard situation could get complicated. The first reaction of most will be to "send him back to the bullpen" and I know I've been guilty of that in the past. I've never actually been against him being a starter, but if one starter has to lose a spot in the rotation than it would have to be Bard based on performance so far (Buchholz has saved his spot with 2 very good starts in a row). However, it's not as easy as simply sending Bard back to the bullpen. The way I see it they have 3 options at this point.
1. Leave him right where he is and hope he works his way out of this. Let's not forget he is a number 5 starter and so far for a number 5 he has been good enough. Hopefully just like Buchholz he'll be able to work his way through this and regain his velocity and control.
2. Send him down (or put him on DL) to Ft. Myers to rest his arm and then build him back up until he's ready to reclaim a spot in the rotation. Bard's decrease in velocity is the most concerning thing to me. We all thought he may lose 2-3 mph off his fastball and pitch around 94-95, but 91-92 is not OK. We also thought he would be able to reach back for 98 when he needed it a la Justin Verlander, but he has not been able to do that. To me the only answer is injury/dead arm from all of the innings he has pitched so far. So far he has thrown exactly 55 innings in the regular season and about another 20 in spring training for a total of roughly 75 innings. Going into this year he had thrown just over 250 major league innings in his career. So he has thrown nearly 25% of that already this year in 10 starts and 1 relief appearance. The time may have come for Bard to rest his arm a little bit and then slowly build his way back up through a rehab assignment. Plus, Dice K has had two good rehab starts in a row so the time to give him a shot may be now.
3. Send him down (or DL him) to let him rest his arm and then start the process of conditioning his arm for relief duty. The Red Sox have given Bard a pretty fair shot to become a starter and so far the results are not bad, but they're not great either. If I had to give him a grade it would be a C+. Again, I don't want to give the impression that I'm overreacting to today's start. I don't think that Bard should go back to the bullpen yet. However, it's not like today came out of nowhere. Bard has been wild in his last 3-4 starts and while none of them ended up as bad as today, he has showed a steady decline lately. In other words today's bad start was not a surprise, you could feel it coming. The other problem with putting Bard in the bullpen is who are you going to take out of the pen? If you could be sure that you were going to get the Bard who was the best set up man in baseball the last two years than you would make room for him, but we can't be sure that's what we would get. Bobby V has been on record as saying he does not want to disrupt the bullpen he has right now and who can blame him.
The Bard situation has quickly jumped to the head of the priorities list for Ben Cherington with a horrible start today. I don't think that the Red Sox will overreact to this one start and I believe he'll get at least one more chance to turn things around. However, if it was me I would choose option #2. His velocity has been down for some time now. Let him rest his arm and then build his arm strength back up in hopes that he'll regain some velocity and return to the rotation around the all-star break. I think if he has a repeat performance in his next start this will be exactly what happens. What do you think? Would you leave Bard in the rotation? Move him to the bullpen? Or put him on the DL/rehab assignment? Let us know in the comments section.