ANAHEIM, Calif — The statistics do not reflect it, but Daniel Bard believes he is ready to return to the major leagues.
The 27-year-old righthander joined the Red Sox on Wednesday and will be activated on Thursday. Bard spent the last 12 weeks with Triple A Pawtucket after his promising career hit an unexpected detour.
One of the best set-up relievers in the game for the better part of three seasons, Bard failed as a starter this season. He was 5-6 with a 5.24 earned run average and got demoted on June 4, a day after he lasted only 1 2/3 innings against Toronto.
Bard walked six batters in that game and hit two. He was optioned to Pawtucket for what the team said would be a short time. It proved to be nearly three months.
“It definitely came as a shock, the first half,” Bard said.
Bard did not pitch well at all in Pawtucket because of control problems, posting a 7.03 ERA over 31 appearance. He walked 29, hit 10 and threw nine wild pitches over 32 innings.
Bard did not walk any batters in his last three outings and the Red Sox are hopeful he can gain a measure of consistency. The velocity is still there, although Bard does not dial up that seemingly effortless 98-mph heater he once had.
“It gave me a chance to work on some things without too much consequence in the results,” Bard said. “I accomplished some really good things and I’m headed in the right direction. Now I need to get back in that competitive environment.”
Bard made his major league debut at Angel Stadium on May 13, 2009. Now he gets a fresh start here again.
“It’s a matter of trying to get better every day,” he said.
Bard doesn’t regret trying to become a starter. But he admits that is what led to his having so many problems.
“I think it was trying to morph myself into a starter too much, trying to change,” Bard said. “Throw more changeups, front-door cutters, back-door sinkers. Just trying to do things that I hadn’t done in the past.
“It worked some days and didn’t work others days. I kind of got in to deep with it. I kind of lost the pitcher that I felt like I was the last three years. I had to do what I could to rediscover that."
That means throwing a fastball and a slider and attacking the strike zone. Bard will not have a defined role in the bullpen beyond simply pitching in relief.
Did the Red Sox ruin one of their best pitchers? It looks that way at the moment. The next several weeks will reveal more of the answer.