Daniel Bard’s 2012 season was a debacle, yet his 2013 campaign is already heading down a more disastrous path. Something needs to change soon, as Bard’s career could depend on it.
Bard simply lost it amid last season’s starting rotation experiment. He finished 2012 with a 6.22 ERA and 1.74 WHIP in 17 big league appearances (10 starts), and he was even worse in the minors, compiling a 7.03 ERA and 1.88 WHIP in 31 appearances with Triple-A Pawtucket. He averaged 6.5 walks per nine innings in the majors, and he issued 8.2 free passes per nine innings during his minor league stint. This season, Bard has a 6.39 ERA, a 2.37 WHIP and has issued 12.1 walks per nine innings in 13 appearances, including a five-walk disaster on Wednesday.
The whole Bard situation is not only concerning for the Red Sox, but it’s also backing the organization into a corner. The right-hander is currently at Double-A Portland trying to figure things out, and the only development this season has been regression, which is saying something when you consider how far Bard’s stock plummeted last season. One has to wonder how long the Sox can afford to simply stand by and watch him struggle at Double-A, as allowing that to happen does little to enhance Bard’s long-term outlook.
“We’ll have to look into the next step and we’ll have another plan for him,” Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves told WEEI.com following Bard’s most recent outing. “Staying the course, but we might add some things. We’ll get together and talk about it and I’m sure there’s going to be a conference call. We’ll talk about it.”
The Red Sox will certainly talk about it, but they’ve been talking about it all season. Manager John Farrell said that each of Bard’s outings is discussed internally, and one has to assume those discussions have included figuring out the next step if Bard continues to struggle. Right now, the Red Sox’ next step is unclear, but it doesn’t appear the organization is ready to do anything radical with Bard.
“To say that it’s one thing and there would be a magic remedy for it, we would certainly give it to him,” Farrell said. “Yet it comes from repeating a delivery and what allows that to happen. That’s being in a good place mentally and confident that you’re going to execute a pitch in a given situation and that’s been elusive for him right now.
“We haven’t gotten to that point [of having him leave Portland] yet. Each outing is discussed internally but it’s more about continuing to address the needs of Daniel and trying to provide him that help as best we can. We haven’t gotten to the point of any drastic measures one way or the other.”
The Red Sox might not be at a breaking point, yet. If Bard keeps going down the road he’s on, however, the Sox will have no other choice than to make some sort of change. Bard isn’t costing the big league club any games while struggling down in Portland, but if the 27-year-old is ever going to recover from this horrendous stretch, the organization needs to consider switching things up. That change could entail extended spring training, temporarily shutting Bard down or simply shifting him to another level within the farm system. Remaining stagnant won’t help.
If whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, then Bard could eventually learn from this rough patch. The Red Sox need to make some adjustments to the current gameplan, though, or else Bard will have an even more difficult time escaping whatever it is that’s plaguing him.