Heading into Friday's outing –– Bard’s last start of the spring –– the right-hander was intent on strengthening his case for the Red Sox' rotation. For the first five innings, Bard accomplished just that to a tee, allowing one run with seven strikeouts.
Although he surrendered two runs in the sixth inning of the 9-7 win, Bard was satisfied with his performance. Now, the coaching staff will decide between Bard, Alfredo Aceves, Felix Doubront and Aaron Cook to fill the backend of the rotation.
In the midst of the uncertainty, Bard is prepared for any decision.
"We had a conversation [Thursday], and they're still real positive, saying, 'Hey, we want you to do this,'" Bard said. "They didn't fully commit to it, but I feel like I have their support. Worst-case scenario, Ace [Aceves] and Doubie [Doubront] and Cookie [Cook] all had great springs, too, and they’re all good friends of mine. We're going to have a good pitching staff."
If Bard is selected for the rotation, he will stay behind in Fort Myers to toss a game against minor leaguers and remain on pitching schedule. Bard said he would then likely toss "75 pitches" and re-join the Red Sox in Detroit.
Through 18 2/3 innings in Grapefruit League action, Bard allowed 15 runs and walked 13 batters. As of now, Bobby Valentine insists he hasn’t sorted out the staff, but still lauded Bard's progression.
"[He's] basically where we hoped he could be and where he hoped he could be," Valentine said. "You want to come here, build and figure out all those nuances. I don't know if he figured 'em all out. You still have some growing pains and learning experiences, but I think physically he got where he wants to be and he's a smart kid."
But Bard doesn’t attribute his lackluster sixth inning to fatigue completely. He blamed the struggles on attempting to be "too perfect" as he faced the Twins order for the third time in the game.
His fate will be determined shortly. In the meantime, the 26-year-old is bracing himself for whichever way the Red Sox' coaching staff rolls the dice on the direction of his pitching career.
"Not surprised,” Bard said of his reaction if he wasn’t chosen. "Like I said, there's four guys that all pitched really well this Spring. They all put up better numbers than me, but they've all done the starting thing quite a bit more than I have recently.
"It's just a matter of what they want to go with. I feel like I have the potential to be a really good starter. It's just a matter of opportunity now."
For the game, Bard tossed 95 pitches, with 53 for strikes.