BOSTON -- The Gulf Coast League season ended Thursday, which also almost certainly meant the last pitching appearance by Daniel Bard at any level for the Red Sox again this season. Judging by Thursday’s outcome, his future remains very much in doubt.
Pitching at the lowest rung of the Sox minor league system, Bard walked five batters, two of whom scored on wild pitches, in two-thirds of an inning Thursday.
Sox manager John Farrell had not been informed of Thursday’s outing when he was asked about Bard near the end of his pregame media session.
“The last report I saw with the inning that he pitched, velocity isn’t where it was when he was here for a brief time in spring training,’’ Farrell said. “The fact that he’s on the mound is one step. The power that needs to come from just being inactive, the consistency to execution, that’s still a work in progress right now.”
Bard has not been the same pitcher since last year’s ill-fated decision to convert him to a starter, an experiment he endorsed and for which a good case could be made. That experiment lasted 10 starts before Bard was demoted to Pawtucket, and returning to a relief role for the PawSox did not have the desired effect, as he posted a 7.03 ERA and walked nearly a batter an inning (29 walks in 32 innings).
Bard struggled again in spring training, when he was unable to regain the velocity that had made him one of baseball’s foremost setup men, and began the year in Double-A Portland.
He was recalled to Boston and made two appearances, the first a scoreless inning. In the second, he walked the only two batters he faced on nine pitches and was lifted. He returned to Portland and was shut down after walking five in his last appearance for the Sea Dogs on May 15.
At the time, the Sox explained they were shutting down Bard to give him time to work on his mechanics. Only afterward was there any mention of an abdominal strain, and Bard was sent to Fort Myers. The hoped-for goal?
“For the majority of the time that he was down, it was kind of open ended,’’ Farrell said Thursday. “One, we didn’t know when he would get back to throwing bullpens. Two, we didn’t know if he’d get back in games. From this point forward, how much time remains or opportunities exist to gain some consistency, to gain some confidence more than anything. Did he become another option for us? Right now, that’s still in question.”
That question appears to have been answered Thursday.