Red Sox Notebook

Bard hits a bump in the road

Projected starter rocked by St. Louis in short stint

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / March 16, 2012
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FORT MYERS, Fla. - The smooth transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation hit a bunch of bumps for Daniel Bard on Thursday.

The righthander lasted only 2 2/3 innings against the Cardinals, giving up seven runs on six hits and four walks with one strikeout against a lineup that included only four regulars.

“He’s probably had better days,’’ manager Bobby Valentine said.

Bard needed 66 pitches to get eight outs and looked nothing like the pitcher who had sailed through his first two starts.

“Physically, I felt like I could have thrown more pitches. Obviously, I just wasn’t in the strike zone enough. I wasn’t throwing strike one,’’ Bard said after the 9-6 loss.

There were logistical hurdles that Bard tripped on. After starting two games, he was used in relief because the Red Sox wanted to give Alfredo Aceves a start.

The plan was for Bard to start the fifth inning, but he didn’t enter the game until the sixth because Valentine wanted to see lefthanded reliever Justin Thomas face the lefthanded hitters due up in the fifth inning.

When Bard finally came in, he needed four pitches to get Carlos Beltran to ground out. Then came a 16-minute rain delay.

“It threw me off a little bit. I’ve done it many times before and it’s not something that should affect me,’’ Bard said. “I tried to keep my mind in it. I didn’t know who I was facing or anything, so I can’t sit down and talk to the catcher about how we’re going to go after the next hitter. You’re just straight killing time.’’

When Bard returned, he allowed three runs on five hits - one a home run by Matt Adams - and two walks. Bard also threw away a pickoff attempt.

“I kind of lost that adrenaline rush that keeps you going out there and keeps you aggressive. I just felt kind of dead the rest of the inning,’’ Bard said. “It’s not an excuse. It just wasn’t the same conviction behind the pitches that needs to be there.’’

After retiring the side in order in the seventh inning, Bard walked Matt Carpenter to start the eighth. With two outs, he allowed two singles then a three-run triple by Shane Robinson, a Triple A player.

Bard didn’t back up third on the play, walking off the mound with his head down. He was pulled from the game at that point.

Aceves allowed one run on three hits in his four innings. He struck out four without a walk. The run was the only one Aceves has allowed in nine innings this spring.

Aceves, Valentine said, will pitch a minor league game in his next turn. For now, Bard remains a strong favorite to open the season as the No. 4 starter.

Kurcz comes on board

The Red Sox received righthander Aaron Kurcz from the Cubs as the player to be named later in the trade made earlier this spring that determined the compensation for Theo Epstein.

Kurcz was with high Single A Daytona last season, going 5-4 with a 3.28 ERA. In 32 games (21 starts), he pitched 82 1/3 innings, giving up 67 hits and striking out 91 with 34 walks.

He has a 2.95 career ERA with an impressive 139 strikeouts in 109 2/3 innings.

Kurcz started his college career at Air Force before attending junior college. The Cubs took him in the 11th round of the 2010 draft. He is only 6 feet, 180 pounds but hits 94 miles per hour with his fastball.

Kurcz is projected as a reliever. The Sox will have him report to minor league camp. The Sox owe the Cubs a player in the deal. That end of the trade is expected to be completed before Opening Day.

More from McDonald

Darnell McDonald was 2 for 2 with a double and a home run. He is 8 for 16 in eight games with seven extra-base hits.

“A lot of hard work this offseason,’’ he said when asked about his hot start. “I started hitting a little earlier than I normally start, just trying to build off last year. I was feeling pretty good [in September] and just tried to take that into the offseason.’’

Dustin Pedroia also homered for the Sox. Pedro Ciriaco was 2 for 2 and is now 9 of 14 (.643). The infielder hit .231 in Triple A in the Pittsburgh organization last season.

Crawford closer

Valentine said that Carl Crawford (left wrist) could start swinging a bat in a day or two . . . Jose Iglesias (right groin) wanted to play but was held back . . . Ryan Sweeney (left quadriceps) will start hitting on Friday and could return over the weekend. “I don’t want to push it. I’d rather have to deal with it now than during the season,’’ he said . . . Jarrod Saltalamacchia (hip bursitis) rested but plans to play on Friday.

Single purpose

Four pitchers worked in minor league games against Single A prospects from the Orioles. Mark Melancon and Matt Albers each went two scoreless innings, striking out three. Tony Pena Jr. had three scoreless innings, as did Brandon Duckworth . . . Hall of Fame football coach Don Shula attended the game as a guest of Valentine. He spoke to the team before batting practice . . . Rich Hill continued his comeback from Tommy John surgery with 20 pitches in live batting practice. Daisuke Matsuzaka is scheduled for the same on Friday . . . Kevin Youkilis turned 33 on Thursday . . . The Sox host the Twins on Friday and then play a split-squad doubleheader against Baltimore on Saturday. “It’s our first complaint with the schedule maker. A split squad after a night game? That’s unjust punishment,’’ Valentine said.

Peter Abraham can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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