Since the beginning of May, as Daisuke Matsuzaka ascended up each minor league level, there was the underlying notion that the Red Sox would need to banish a starter to the bullpen upon the pitcher's return.
For weeks, Boston manager Bobby Valentine dodged the questions, saying the pitching situation would eventually work itself out. Now, after Daniel Bard's disastrous Sunday start against the Blue Jays, there's seemingly some clarity.
The Daniel Bard starting experiment isn't working. During Sunday's 5-1 loss, the right-hander experienced serious control issues, walking six batters and plunking two more while surrendering five runs through 1 2/3 innings.
In the process, Bard only recorded five outs before exiting in favor of Franklin Morales. Until that point, no Red Sox starter had ever walked six hitters and plunked two more in less than two innings of work since 1918.
But with Bard's lack of control — and Matsuzaka on the mend — it may be time for the Red Sox to abandon the experiment. Through 11 starts this season, Bard has totaled 37 walks and 34 strikeouts, a discouraging ratio for the 26-year-old.
"Maybe we tried to turn me into a starter rather than just taking the same pitcher I was out of the 'pen and moving that guy to the rotation," Bard told reporters in Toronto. "That’s probably what should have been done. It's partially my fault. It's all my fault."
From the beginning, Bard has been inconsistent. At times, he'd show swift progression as a starter, tossing three quality starts. Other times, he was downright shaky on the bump, allowing at least five runs in four starts.
First, his velocity dipped down. Now, all of a sudden, Bard's control has been nonexistent. During six of his last seven starts for the Red Sox, he has tallied more bases on balls than punchouts en route to elevating his ERA to 5.24.
The issues reached a climax in the second, when Bard walked Toronto slugger Jose Bautista with the bases loaded. Bautista also pounced on the righty in the first, unloading a three-run shot on a 92 mph fastball.
All the setbacks beg the question: should the Red Sox send him to Triple-A to figure out his problems? Either way, Bard can't continue to pitch in his current state and — for that matter — he is putting opposing hitters in harm's way with his erratic pitching.
In the second inning, Bard managed to hammer Yunel Escobar on the hand and Edwin Encarnacion on the wrist. After getting plunked, Encarnacion fell on the Rogers Centre turf and starting writhing in pain.
The bean balls weren't intentional by any means. But it was a byproduct of Bard's inability to hit the strike zone.
As a result, Matsuzaka is the most immediate threat to Bard's rotation spot. In his last start for the PawSox, the Japanese hurler struck out four and surrendered just one run and two hits over 5 1/3 innings. Matsuzaka didn't walk anyone, either.
Due to those performances, Matsuzaka is shaking off any lingering concerns about his right trapezius muscle and his right elbow. Now, he may be poised to reclaim his spot in the rotation.