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.


  1. I vote for the send him down for one of two options, to make one start in the minors to build his confidence or have him make a few appearance out of the bullpen so can get back into that routine and come back ready to set-up Aceves. Dice-K should be ready to fill Bard's spot in the rotation.

  2. First I would give him at least one more start. He is due to pitch vs. Washington at home on Saturday. No matter what his role is to be for the rest of 2012, ideally you do not want his last start of the year to be this stinker today. If he does not pitch appreciably better( can it be as bad or worse??) then you have to make some move.

    I do not buy the put him back in the bullpen and everything will go forward perfectly idea. If you all remember Bard's bullpen pitching last September was one of the culprits of the Red Sox collapse.

    I have been on the Bard as a starter bandwagon since it pulled into town, and I still think that is his future. But, if the next start is not what the Sox are looking for he should be put on the DL ( any pitcher has enough wear and tear on his arm to come up with an injury to serve this purpose) rested for a short while and then sent to rehab at Ft. Meyers.

    This will not only will be an attempt to straighten Bard out, but will also cut down on his innings for the year, which has been an issue from the get go. Give him a month off, rehab him as a starter, if we still need a starter when he is ready, plug him back in. If not, make him a member of the bullpen. Although if Aceves keeps going at his current pace, and Bailey comes back the assigned bullpen roles could be a discussion all of its own.

    Another secondary issue besides the bullpen structure is if Bard cannot cut it as a starter ( at least for 2012 ) do the Sox need to trade for a starter, and does this involve Youkilis ?

    Whatta season so far and it is only June 3rd!!

    1. I agree with your prediction for the Bard situation. I also agree that this has been an incredibly entertaining season. We picked the right year to start a blog!! If healthy, the bullpen spots will be an interesting discussion for sure. I think no matter what you do with Bard, bullpen or rotation, he needs to go on the DL and rehab at some point so he can rest his arm, save innings, gain confidence and regain his velocity and stuff.

  3. I am baffled by the Daniel Bard we have seen in the rotation this year. I thought at the very least he would bring some gas and have to work on his off-speed stuff. So far, all he has had is off-speed stuff. As Art noted, he wasn't even that good at the end of last year in the bullpen with his blazing fastball. Without it, he has been just mediocre.

    It's interesting to note the progress of the three big time relievers who were converted into starters this year. Bard has had drastically reduced velocity and is looking at a DL trip. Neftali Feliz is already on the DL with a sore arm. Chris Sale, who would have been the least likely to find success if you had asked me before the season, has been yanked back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen. Only Sale, who recently struck out 15 batters in a game, has had much success. It's still too early to cast final verdicts, but these teams may have been better off leaving these relievers in their relief role. We'll see.

    1. The Red Sox made a good decision moving Bard to the rotation...because it allowed them to improve their bullpen!!

      In all seriousness Bard is still a good pitcher and he'll help them somewhere whether it's in the bullpen or the rotation remains to be seen. The last two years out of the bullpen he struggled down the stretch after throwing around 70 innings. Well including spring training he is already at 70 innings this year. That tells me that he has the ever dangerous "dead arm" and he needs some time on the DL and a rehab assignment.

  4. Interesting take on the Bard situation from Gordon Edes today, here:

    Edes seems to be arguing in favor of keeping Bard as a starter for now, but demoting him to AAA where he can work out his problems in a low-impact setting. I would favor this approach, if it is determined that his arm strength is there. If not, then I agree with Barry that Bard needs to be shut down for a while before building his arm back up and hoping he can contribute for the stretch run in some capacity.

  5. Well we got part of our answer today with Bard being sent down the only question remains is whether he will remain a starter or be converted to the bullpen. This season just gets more interesting every week. Are we ready for the return of Dice K??