BOSTON — The Red Sox understand the reality.
Daniel Bard was designated for assignment Sunday to make room on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster for outfielder Quintin Berry, who was recently acquired from the Royals in exchange for pitcher Clayton Mortensen. While it might have been a difficult decision, it’s one that makes sense given where both Bard and the Red Sox stand at the moment.
Bard will now be exposed to waivers, which means that there’s a possibility that he has pitched his last game for the Red Sox. If he’s claimed off waivers, Boston has 10 days to either work out a trade or let him go for nothing. If no one claims Bard, the Red Sox can either outright him to the minors or release him. It’s a gamble given how good Bard was for a three-year stretch, but the Red Sox are also in the heat of a pennant race, meaning every 40-man roster spot is valuable at this point.
“It’s frustrating for all of us, and no less frustrating for Daniel, to see the challenges that he’s been faced with and the attempts made to make adjustments,” manager John Farrell said Sunday. “It’s an ongoing battle right now.”
Bard’s battle has been well-documented. He was a valuable piece of the Red Sox’ bullpen from 2009 to 2011, and was even considered by some to be the eventual successor to closer Jonathan Papelbon. The Red Sox attempted to convert Bard back into a starting pitcher in 2012, though, and the right-hander has been on a downward spiral ever since.
Bard went 5-6 with a 6.22 ERA in 17 major league games (10 starts) last season. The minors were no easier, as Bard went 3-2 with a 7.03 ERA in 31 appearances (one start) with Triple-A Pawtucket in 2012. The hope was that Bard would make strides during spring training and ultimately resurrect his career in 2013, but injuries and control problems have plagued him all season. He has issued 27 walks in 15 1/3 minor league innings this year.
“It was a combination of delivery issues that were being ironed out and certainly confidence issues,” Farrell said. “That’s where the question was, which comes first. We felt like performance was going to lead to confidence. As he was building a little momentum in spring training, we felt like there was one step left to make with him as far as the power and the consistency to it. It looked like he was on his way, and unfortunately, it didn’t happen. I’m sure he’s disappointed. It’s unfortunate that things didn’t continue on with the late-inning and the performance that he had.”
Bard, who had been out of action since May 15, returned to games recently, but it’s been more of the same. He worked around a walk and a hit to throw a scoreless inning in the Gulf Coast League on Monday, but he imploded during another appearance in Rookie ball on Thursday. Bard’s latest appearance came with Single-A Lowell on Saturday, and he was once again all over the place.
Perhaps a change of scenery could help Bard, or perhaps he’ll go unclaimed and the Red Sox will have an opportunity to continue working with the 28-year-old as he attempts to revive a once-promising career. Either way, there’s a lot of work to be done, and the Red Sox simply couldn’t afford to have him taking up a spot on the 40-man roster if he wasn’t going to contribute this season. Berry will give the Red Sox an extra outfielder capable of providing speed on the bases, and the other players currently on the 40-man roster could all step in if needed, whereas that wasn’t the case with Bard.
We’ll have to see how the waiver process plays out before closing the book on Bard’s Red Sox career. He has an option left and clearly has potential, though, so a team might decide to take a flyer. If teams ultimately decide that he’s not worth the risk, Farrell and the Red Sox fully intend to keep putting in the work.
“If he’s still in the organization, which we would hope would be the case, we haven’t turned our back on him,” Farrell said. “And yet, we needed a roster spot. We’re hopeful we can get Daniel back on track to be the pitcher that he was here at the big-league level, which was a dominant one.”
It’s been a wild ride — quite literally — for Bard. The Red Sox simply needed to make a move, though.