The skipper’s reserved approach started before Tuesday’s game. When asked if it was safe to assume the 26-year-old was a lock for the No. 4 spot in the Red Sox rotation, Valentine shook his head.
“I’m not there yet,” he said.
And Bard didn’t improve his stock with the start. In five innings against the Blue Jays, the right-hander allowed three runs, three hits and three walks en route to being charged with his second straight loss.
It signaled another subpar outing for Bard, who has surrendered 10 runs and seven walks over the last 7 2/3 innings. But it’s Bard’s penchant for issuing free passes that’s especially worrisome for Valentine.
“I don’t think that even with his good stuff I could handle the walks,” Valentine said. “Now I don’t know if [it's the] spring…and trying to impress. That’s why I looked for the changeup. If there was a pitch he wasn’t comfortable with and that was causing some of these negative counts, I would have been able to use that as an excuse.”
Earlier in the week, the Red Sox skipper preached the urgency for Felix Doubront to showcase “a killer pitch.” Considering Bard only tossed one changeup –– a pitch in development –– on Tuesday, Valentine echoed those sentiments in regards to Bard.
“He’s got to understand that pitch,” Valentine said. “It could really be that pitch that gets the contact when we need some soft contact situations.”
As a result of Bard’s recent hurdles, CSNNE.com reported that he could return to the bullpen in favor of Doubront and Alfredo Aceves as the team’s No. 4 and 5 starters.
The latter option wouldn’t be surprising. During the spring, Red Sox pitching coach Bob McClure has routinely praised Aceves’ ability and mental makeup for the starting staff. He confirmed as much when speaking with NESN.com a few weeks ago.
“I imagine from a mental standpoint, it’d be very easy for him [to make the conversion] because he can do so many things with the baseball,” McClure said. “So it would probably be easier for Aceves than anybody because — one, he’s done it. Two, is that he’s been very effective pitching two, three innings, plus at the major league level. His control is real good, so it probably would be pretty easy for Alfredo.”
Bard is aware of the lack of endorsements, but isn’t panicking just yet.
“I don’t expect to be handed anything,” Bard said Tuesday. “After my previous outing, I wouldn’t expect him to hand me a job. [Valentine] wouldn’t be doing his job if that was the case.”
Now, it remains to be seen whether Bard will actually earn his ideal starting job.