Mixed results epitomized Daniel Bard's time in Fort Myers. In his last spring start before Tuesday's 7-1 loss against Toronto, Bard was nearly unhittable through five innings before unraveling — he yielded four runs — in the sixth frame.
The pattern repeated itself once again in his first start of the regular season. After surrendering three early runs, Bard cruised until the sixth inning, where he exited and was charged with two more runs to raise his ERA to 9.00.
"[Bard's] first pitch was a ground ball, base hit, and they scored a run," manager Bobby Valentine told reporters. "He was pitching well the entire night. He wasn't behind hitters, expect for one. [He] threw over 90 pitches. They were all quality. It didn't seem like he lost his stuff."
A few misplayed grounders worked against Bard, which extended his outing and increased his pitch count.
Despite taking the defeat, Bard continued to show promise in the outing, fanning slugger Jose Bautista twice. He attacked the All-Star and reigning home run champion in each at-bat with fastballs.
Early on, he primarily dabbled with that fastball and slider. As the game went on, Bard attempted to incorporate his changeup –– the pitch that will be the key to his success –– into his arsenal and made progress.
"I feel good about how I threw it," Bard told reporters in Toronto. "The results obviously stunk … but I wouldn't change the way I threw it."
Once he develops a level of comfort with the changeup, Bard could start to match expectations. There is potential there. In the meantime, he'll need to maintain his momentum in the latter innings to build on those mixed results.