Daniel Bard has reason to be optimistic this season. While Bard’s career has been on a downward spiral over the last two years, the right-hander expects to enter Texas Rangers spring training free of any physical issues.
Bard, whose once promising career took a turn for the worse in 2012, was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome and underwent surgery on Jan. 2. While the injury might not be entirely responsible for Bard’s struggles over the last two seasons, the 28-year-old told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford on a recent podcast that he thinks the nerve issue kicked off his unfortunate chain of events.
“I think the increased workload of starting [with the Boston Red Sox] in 2012 probably sped up the process and made this situation a little worse,” Bard told Bradford. “And not to mention you’re not feeling a lot of outward symptoms, you’re not feeling pain. So you don’t think anything’s wrong with you physically, and then when the results [aren't] what you expect them to be — velocity is down, command is a little bit worse — you immediately try to start fixing things, and the first thing you try to fix in baseball is usually mechanics.
“If it’s not mechanics, it’s something mental. … It was just kind of a snowball effect of me trying to fix things, when in reality I was kind of working with a not fully functional nerve in my arm which I think affected me more than anyone realized at the time.”
Bard was one of Major League Baseball’s premier setup men for a three-year stretch from 2009-11, and many even considered him to be a closer-in-waiting. However, things went south in 2012, when the Red Sox attempted to convert Bard back into a starting pitcher, apparently amid the pitcher’s unknown health issue.
Bard posted a 6.22 ERA in 17 appearances (10 starts) with the Red Sox in 2012, and also posted a 7.01 ERA in 31 appearances (one start) with Triple-A Pawtucket. The 6-foot-4 righty again struggled to begin the 2013 season, leading to him being placed on waivers by the Red Sox, at which point he was claimed by the Chicago Cubs. Bard didn’t appear in any games in the Cubs organization, and his winter ball stint in Puerto Rico after the season also proved disastrous.
Bard now looks to rebound with the Rangers, whom he signed a minor league contract with last week. Bard expects to begin throwing in two weeks, and actually credits former teammate Josh Beckett for being the first to suggest that he might be dealing with thoracic outlet syndrome.