Bard rejoins Sox, will be activated soon

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Judging by the results during a nearly three-month stint in Triple-A Pawtucket -- 7.03 ERA, 31 hits and 29 walks in 29 innings, which translates to a 1.875 WHIP -- Daniel Bard remains a work in progress.

But there is little doubt about what the end game is.

"I'm a reliever," the 27-year-old right-hander said Wednesday. "I think that's all I know right now."

Fulfilling a pledge he made a couple of weeks ago, Boston Red Sox GM Ben Cherington brought Bard back to the big league team, for whom he has not pitched since June 3. Bard was not activated; he expects that to come Thursday, after Zach Stewart made his debut for the Sox in a start against the Los Angeles Angels.

"I think he's ready to be here," manager Bobby Valentine said. "If in fact we activate him tomorrow, I think he'll help us win some games."

Bard's last appearance for Pawtucket came Sunday, when he gave up a run on two hits in an inning at Charlotte. He was scored upon in 7 of his last 10 appearances with the PawSox, but Valentine termed his stint there as "progressively better."

"I feel like I've thrown the ball well the last few weeks," Bard said. "There have been a couple of hiccups here and there, but it was more just trying to tweak something in the mechanics and carrying it into a game maybe didn't go as well as we wanted."

Bard said he had no regrets about attempting to make the transition to starter, an experiment even now he wouldn't deem a failure.

"Not at all," Bard said. "I took it as a challenge. I wouldn't say that I failed. I had one really bad start and that led to me getting sent down. Up until then, I was pretty much on par with all the other guys in the rotation. I think [Felix] Doubront was doing the best at the time. I wouldn't say I failed. I'd say that it was what it was. It was an experiment, and I chose to move forward out of the bullpen and I'm fine with that, too."

He acknowledged, however, that he "lost the pitcher" he was, in trying to make the transition.

"I think I was trying to morph myself into a starter too much, trying to change, throw my changeup, front-door cutters, back-door sinkers, just trying to do things I hadn't done in the past," Bard said. "It worked some days and didn't work other days. I kind of lost the pitcher that I felt like I was the last three years. I had to kind of do what I had to do to rediscover that.

"You look at any video from the last three years, I was pretty much fastball-slider, attack the zone and hit it if you can. That's the mentality that I'm back to now."

He welcomed the return to the big leagues on a number of levels, not the least of which was returning to a more competitive environment.

"Pitching in that environment after being up here for three years, it's hard," he said. "There's no adrenaline. It's 100 percent development and just working on things. Once I got through that and got to the point that I forced myself to just go out and compete, those were the best outings I had. Getting to this environment up here is only going to help."

Even elite pitchers have been demoted and returned to enjoy success. Cliff Lee, for one. Roy Halladay, for another. Bard says he takes some encouragement from that.

"Pitching is never something you figure out," he said. "It's a process to get better."