Daniel Bard’s Ability to Start, Close Makes Him One of Bobby Valentine’s Most Prized Pitchers

by NESN Staff

December 6, 2011

Daniel Bard's Ability to Start, Close Makes Him One of Bobby Valentine's Most Prized PitchersDALLAS – One of the big questions surrounding the Red Sox' offseason is whether Daniel Bard will pitch as a starter or a reliever next year. Bobby Valentine, the new manager of the Boston Red Sox, thinks he knows what the pitcher's preference would be after speaking with Bard on Monday.

"I believe, in his heart of hearts, that he has a starter's kind of dream out there and that he wants to be a starter," Valentine said on NESN's Red Sox Hot Stove Live on Monday night.  "He believes he's better than a lot of guys who pitch a lot of innings in the American League, and probably could excel there."

Bard has excelled as a reliever until now, and would seem to be the heir apparent to the closer's job with Jonathan Papelbon now in Philadelphia. Yet there is also a gaping hole in the rotation. Two, in fact, with John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka both recovering from Tommy John surgery.

That's why the most intriguing pitcher in Ben Cherington's sights here in Dallas isn't one of the many free agents being discussed. It's a pitcher who remains under Boston's control for the next four years.  Bard can do a lot of things, and though he may want to be a starter, he may have to put that dream on hold for a while.

"There's always the chance that it isn't determined now, but later on," said Cherington. "We certainly want to give Daniel a chance to prepare for spring training the right way."

Valentine believes that chance is to have Bard prepare mentally and physically to be a starter this spring. He can always scale back the workload to a reliever's pace if needed.

"We're going to let this be a work in progress," said Valentine. "I told him the easy way to prepare in the winter time is to prepare to be a starter. Prepare [for that] physically because you can always take the step on that backside, to go back and be a little shorter."

More than anything, Valentine said he was impressed by Bard's willingness to do whatever the team needed in 2012.

"He's going to prepare mentally and physically to be the best pitcher he can be and let us determine what role that is."

Cherington said the bottom line is that Bard will have a higher profile on this team next season, and that he's ready for it. Whether he's starting or closing, he will be one of the most important pitchers on the Boston staff. His flexibility allows the Sox to remain flexible in their approach this week.

"What Ben is able to do with this pitching staff will shed a little light on Daniel's future," said Valentine.

It's clear that his future is bright, whether he's pitching the first inning or the ninth for Boston.

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