PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- The last time Red Sox pitcher Daniel Bard exited McCoy Stadium, on May 10, 2009, no one expected he would ever be back at the Triple-A level.
The Red Sox promoted Bard to Boston that day, and for the next two and a half seasons he was one of the more dominant relievers in the majors. He was converted into a starter for the 2012 season, but due to his inconsistencies and struggles, Bard will be back in a PawSox uniform when he reports for his minor league assignment on Thursday. He’s scheduled to start on Friday.
PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur has worked with Bard and the two have a strong relationship. Sauveur, like the rest of the Red Sox organization, feels Bard’s trip to the minors will be short and sweet.
“With him, I think it's going to be all right,” Sauveur said. “I think it's not going to be as tough as it could be. I have a good relationship with him from . I know him real well. We've just got to figure out what the problems are. We'll get some video of what's going on up top and figure out what road we're going to take.”
There’s no denying Bard is smart, but he did not want to be sent down and he'll have to contend with the mental challenge of accepting what has happened and figuring out how to fix it.
“He's going to have to be mentally prepared to be here for just a little bit,” Sauveur said. “That in itself is tough after what he's been through up there for two and a half years. He's done a great job for Boston, a great job out of the 'pen. Let's just hope that it's a quick fix, but again, the mental part is going to be the toughest part, I think, for him, just to get over the 'I was sent down.' Once we get into his brain that he's here to figure out what's going on, we'll get his ass back up there. I think he's a big part of that team. There's no doubt in my mind.”
Sauveur doesn’t plan on trying to convert the hard-throwing right-hander into something he’s not. It’s going to be a case of simplifying things and making sure everything from a mental and performance standpoint is in sync.
“I've got to reiterate that getting him back to the big leagues should be short and sweet. Fix it and get him out of here,” Sauveur said. “He's [been] a big part of the Boston Red Sox for the past two and a half years and I think he's a big part of the Boston Red Sox for the next eight or nine. I really do.”
Bard, who as a reliever routinely hit 99 and 100 m.p.h. on the radar gun, has seen a dramatic decrease in his velocity as a starter. His mechanics are the reason for that decline and that’ll be a focus for Sauveur once Bard arrives in Pawtucket.
“The velocity was something that wowed us because it was so fluid,” Sauveur said. “He was so easy going. It just flowed through and then all of a sudden here it comes flying out of his hand. You see a normal guy pump up trying to get 93 and 94, and he's nice and easy going 96, 97, 98. I'm sure that's a factor with what they're worried about, but starting takes a lot out of you. I think starters are a different breed than relievers. We'll see what happens.”
When Bard made it known to the Red Sox last November that he wanted to be converted to a starter, the organization felt he would be up for that challenge and he could have success. But the inconsistencies have crept in and now the organization thinks sending Bard to the minors would be the best for everyone involved.
“I know he wants to perform well up top,” Sauveur said. “[Starting] was a challenge that he took on, that he either asked for or said that he would accept. Not all stories come to a happy ending, but this one’s not over yet. Put it that way.”