FORT MYERS, Fla. — Can one inning — specifically, three batters and 14 pitches — represent an important milestone in the resurrection of Daniel Bard’s career?
It just might. That’s how encouraged the Red Sox were by what they saw from Bard against the Minnesota Twins Thursday.
Bard struck out Eduardo Escobar, Jeff Clement, and Brandon Boggs in the sixth inning and looked more like the pitcher he once was, throwing a fastball that hit 97 miles per hour and showing a biting slider.
“Might be the best velocity he has shown in a little more than a year,” manager John Farrell said.
Bard went nine days between appearances, spending time working individually with pitching coach Juan Nieves on footwork and the angle of his delivery.
“He went out and repeated in a game setting what he had been working on,” Farrell said.
Nieves worked with Bard on keeping his right shoulder from dipping and creating a side-to-side motion with his pitches instead of up-and-down.
“He stayed behind a lot of fastballs,” said Farrell. “It was improved command, improved velocity. It was a very good day for him.”
Bard will next pitch in two or three days. The Red Sox are trying to erase the bad habits he developed last season when he was made into a starter.
Ortiz is too sore
The Red Sox had big plans for David Ortiz Thursday. He was supposed to go through what Farrell said would be an “aggressive” session of running the bases.
It was designed to be a significant step toward getting Ortiz into his first game.
Instead, the designated hitter went through a brief, much less intense workout early in the morning because he wasn’t feeling up to more.
“Just trying to get through this,” Ortiz said. “Ups and downs, ups and downs.”
Farrell said Ortiz’s Achilles’ tendon strain isn’t the problem. That has healed. It’s more general soreness associated with Ortiz trying to get back in shape after not being able to run all winter.
“It’s generalized,” said Farrell. “It's not specific to the injury.”
If Ortiz does not get into a game soon, starting the season on the disabled list becomes inevitable.
Ortiz was once described as being a week behind Mike Napoli, who came to camp with a hip condition. Napoli played in his first game March 1, while Ortiz is at least three or four days away from playing.
Breslow to DL?
Lefthanded reliever Craig Breslow is likely to start the season on the disabled list, Farrell said. The same could be true for another lefthanded reliever, Franklin Morales.
Breslow arrived in camp with weakness in his left shoulder and has only recently started throwing on flat ground. He is not close to getting on the mound.
“He’s on an every-other-day throwing program right now,” said Farrell. “It’s hard to project right now that he’ll be ready to go once camp breaks. He’s going to need a little time.”
Once he starts throwing off the mound, Breslow would have throw live batting practice several times before getting into games.
Morales threw one inning in a game before being shut down with lower-back pain. He responded well to anti-inflammatory drugs and played catch Thursday. The question now is how quickly he can catch up.
“Depending on how these next, probably, 5-7 days go and how he can pick up on the throwing program, that’s going to give us a better read on whether he’s going to be ready to go,” Farrell said.
That will leave the Red Sox with one lefty in the pen (Andrew Miller) instead of three. But righthander Koji Uehara has been remarkably effective against lefthanded batters in his career. They have hit .216 against him.
“Fortunately, we have depth and we have quality depth in the bullpen,” Farrell said.
The Red Sox have no game scheduled on March 31, the day before they open the season against the Yankees. Under rules established in the latest collective bargaining agreement, teams cannot hold official workouts that day or even optional practices. Farrell and the coaches can be at Yankee Stadium that day and be available for any players who want to come in.