Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard has been keeping a diary for ESPNBoston.com all season. In this entry, he talks about why he doesn't want any trades in the bullpen, why he's not afraid of what Terry Francona thinks of him, and whether the Sox can catch the Yankees. (as told to Louise K. Cornetta)
I had a good All-Star break. It was flattering to be even mentioned as someone who could possibly be an All-Star. I feel good about the year I've had so far. As a middle reliever, you never expect to be an All-Star. It would have been an awesome thing to have happened, but I didn't have any expectations about it. Just to have some of my teammates and coaches here come up to me and say they voted for me and thought I should have been a part of it, that meant a lot right there. To me, it meant just as much as making it just without the experience. So that was a good feeling and I have plenty more years to do that.
I did watch about half the All-Star Game on TV. It was good to see Jonny Lester throw well. I was waiting to watch some of his inning and hope to see some of our guys hitting. We didn't have too many healthy guys there. I like the way they do it for home-field advantage. You’re not giving anything to either league. It makes guys play with a little bit of reason to win.
Over the break, my wife and I went back to check on the house we're building in Mississippi, which is under construction right now. It was the first time I had seen it. Then we came back on Tuesday and spent Wednesday at the Cape seeing my brother Luke play. Both my brothers and my parents were out there visiting. Luke plays in the Cape Cod League. He's doing well. I think he'd like to be starting, but he's throwing in relief. He's done really well and his stuff has been good. His fastball is being thrown as hard as it's ever been. He's just hoping to get as many innings as he can. He did ask for my advice when he switched to the bullpen role. He's used to starting, so we talked about preparing for games: when we do our throwing and how much we throw before a game where it's not going to hurt you when the game rolls around if you have to pitch. Little things like that, which you gain with experience as a reliever. I've tried to help him a little bit. He's a smart guy that's learned a lot on his own too. I try not to interfere too much.
My other brother, Jared, just graduated from Richmond. He took a scouting position, it's actually more like an internship, under Peter Gammons. Peter has done that for the past 15 years, giving that job to somebody. Mike Hazen, our player development guy for the Red Sox, did that. That internship has produced a lot of guys who went on to front office positions. Jared might want to go that route. I talked to Peter myself and he told me he was looking for a guy. I told him that Jared may be interested. They ended up speaking on the phone and seemed to be a good fit.
I also have a cousin, John Andreoli, who plays baseball at UConn. He's a first cousin. He started the year in the Cape Cod League as a temp at Brewster with my brother Luke. They filled up all their spots. I guess they released him or cut his contract. He got picked up by Wareham, which is the team I played for down there. I think he's leading the team in hitting. So he's a good player too. Baseball kind of dominates the conversation with my family. It definitely has in the past when I was growing up. My dad played Double-A ball with the Dodgers and Orioles. My grandfather coached for 40years. Everyone is into baseball in my family.
As I mentioned, I played for Wareham in the Cape Cod League. I had a great time. Wareham, a lot of people say, is not on the Cape. It's technically right before you cross the bridge. I didn't know any different or any better. We had a great group of guys. I think that's what makes summer ball, having some fun guys with good personalities to be around and you get to play baseball every night. Coming off of 2004 Team USA and UNC, my alma mater, where I struggled some, I think Wareham gave me an opportunity, and I ran with it. I started there right from the get-go. My stuff at the time was throwing a hard two-seam fastball and a slider. While I didn't have great command, it was really effective against wood bats. It's a pitchers' league anyway. I think the league usually hits .230. It was good for me and did a lot for me confidence-wise.
I can't believe we are already into the second half of the season. It flew by for sure. This is the first year I've been married playing baseball. I mean, it's been great but it's just a lot of new things. I think when things are new, time just kind of flies by. I believe being able to settle in has made a difference. Last year, I was living in the hotel for the first two months I was up and then you're scrambling to find an apartment and never really get settled. This year, we were settled by the first or second week. Once you get into a routine, time flies by.
How would I describe the season so far? We're surviving, that's the best way to describe it. Everything that could go wrong has. We're still in a race for the division and the wild card. I think we are the best team in baseball while we're healthy. Even when we're not, we're playing with a lot of lesser experienced guys, but obviously they stepped up well like Darnell McDonald and Daniel Nava, and Felix Doubront coming in and making some starts. We're going to be healthy about a month from now. If we can survive and stay where we're at for another month, we'll make a good run in the last couple months of the season.
We've had so many injuries. You would think we were all trying to be overly cautious now. But you can't ever try and be careful because that's a way to cause injuries, I think. Maybe that's our problem. We have a lot of aggressive guys on this team who play hard. Stuff happens. They're fluke plays. Those in-between balls that nobody calls because you're not sure if you're going to get to it and you're both making an effort at it, it's nobody's fault when you collide. It's just stuff that happens. Then the foul balls and tips, it's surprising it doesn't happen more to other teams too. But both of our catchers were victims of it. What can you do?
This is a team effort and everyone is trying, that goes for our bullpen too. We're trying to find ways to bridge that gap in the middle innings. We've got some really talented arms out there that are trying to find what was working for them last year. They're some of my closest friends on the team too. We're rooting hard for each other. We hope that with the trade deadline coming up, that core group can stay intact through the end of the year. The veteran players, guys like Okajima, they have a way before the season is over to have their numbers go back to the way they should be. He might not be a 2.00 ERA like he's been in the past, but he's going to finish on a good note, I'm pretty sure.
The trade deadline is something you pay attention to. For me, I just like to keep an ear to it to know what's going on with our team. These are my friends and I don't want to see my friends gets traded. I just like to try and know what's going on.
My expectations for the second half are to get everyone healthy and at the very least, win the wild card. I don't see why we can't. I think when we were healthy we were playing with or even better than both New York and Tampa. It hasn't been that way as of late. We haven't been playing like we're capable of. I don’t think anyone on this team has any doubt that we're capable of coming back and winning and finding a way to get into the playoffs. I think we'd be happy with that right now, just finding a way to get in, because we're the most injured team in baseball. Just to get in the playoffs would be huge right now. I think we're all, not just hoping for it, but I think we really expect it.
I think catching the Yankees will be pretty tough. Hey, maybe eight of their guys will get hurt too. No, just kidding, I wouldn't wish that on anyone. I do hope we come back and catch them. What I hope is that we put our best against their best and we can take them on.
As for myself, I get asked a lot about being on pace to throw 80 innings. Well, I've only thrown four times in July. Before that fourth outing, I was going on five days rest. I've had plenty of rest lately. It feels like the beginning of the season as far as what kind of shape my arm is in, very fresh. I'm fine. It was definitely a grind there for a little while. It was never to a point where I didn't feel healthy or felt like I was being overworked. I would have spoken up and said something, but it never got to that point. It is a grind, relief pitching you may find yourself pitching three days in a row.
The last two weeks have been a huge break for me. If you asked me at the midpoint last year the same thing about whether I would speak up about pitching too much, it might have been a different answer. It's not like I'm worried about what Tito thinks of me or what John Farrell thinks of me. They know I'm pretty much willing to take the ball any time. I'm not worried about telling them I can't pitch and being sent down the next day. Those things give you the confidence to speak your mind and let them know how you really feel.
Texas has been in town this weekend. Look at their lineup, it's stacked with All-Stars. They've got speed. They play defense. They catch the ball and obviously are swinging pretty good. They're a tough team to beat.
I'll leave you with this, though I bet no one reading this will find any interest in it, but I did buy three hunting magazines over the All-Star break. They finally started putting them back on the racks a few months before deer season. It's getting me so excited. Not that I'm getting excited for the end of the season. I hope we're playing until Nov. 2 or 3, whenever the World Series ends. Whenever it does end, that's where I'll be. Deer is my favorite to hunt, but I've gotten into duck hunting a little bit. My in-laws are from Mississippi and that's big duck hunting territory. So I plan to be hunting a little of both.