Bard adjusting to routine of being a starter
Right-hander fares well while making spring debut in rotation
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Daniel Bard was ready to pitch on Tuesday -- so ready in fact that with about 20 minutes before it was time to warm up, he didn't quite know what to do.
Welcome to life as the pitcher transitioning from the bullpen to the rotation.
"It's a little different being out there before the first inning," said Bard. "It felt good, though I'm still trying to get my routine down. I found myself in the training room, all done with what I needed to do stretching-wise with about 20 minutes to spare before I went outside, so I'm going to have to work that pregame schedule out. That will come with time."
What did he do to kill the time?
"I pretty much went up to everyone and asked them, 'What am I supposed to be doing?' It was kind of a running joke throughout the day before," said Bard.
As it turns out, Bard fared well despite waiting around. Making his first start in a Grapefruit League contest, the righty fired two hitless innings, walking one and striking out two against the Orioles.
In the abbreviated outing, Bard didn't break out the same portfolio he will once he gets stretched out.
"A lot of fastballs," Bard said. "I mixed in a couple of sliders. Two were pretty good, one not so good. I can't recall if I threw one changeup in that long at-bat or not. I just wanted to stick with what I'm real comfortable with this first outing, which is four-seamers, two-seamers and the slider. We're going to work the changeup in more as we move forward."
Bard, who was an indispensable member of Boston's bullpen the past three years, is fully confident he can impact the team just as much -- or perhaps more -- from the rotation.
He was once a star starting pitcher for the University of North Carolina.
"I moved so far past starting with the four years I spent as a reliever, so I actually went back about a week ago and pulled up some articles about games from some of my better starts in college," said Bard. "[It] sounds kind of crazy, but I just wanted to see that I had a couple complete games and wanted to pull those up just as a nice reminder to be like, 'That seventh or eighth inning seems like foreign territory to me right now, but definitely something I've done before.' Pitch count-wise, you know, it shouldn't be a problem."
When Bard finished his two innings on Tuesday, he was hardly gasping for air.
"I felt good. I felt like I could have kept going to be honest with you," said Bard. "Hopefully it stays that way until we get out to 80, 100 pitches. It was a good first day of work. It's always nice to have good results to go with it."
Bard knows that the true tests still await. In his next start, he'll likely go three innings, and then continue to graduate from there.
At least at the Major League level, Bard has never been asked to go through a lineup two or three times.
"Nothing worries me," Bard said. "There are unknowns, though, but I don't lose sleep over them. Nobody knows how I'm going to respond and how I'm going to face a lineup for a third time in the game. To me, that's exciting. I'm looking forward to it. It's a personal challenge and I'm not scared of it. I'm excited about it if anything."
The pitching is second nature to Bard. The routine? Now that's something he freely admits will take some time getting used to.
The right-hander has sought out advice from the veteran pitchers on the team, but he has come to realize there really is no one method for getting ready for a start.
"It's a totally different feeling I haven't had in years -- just like getting to the park three hours before the game and having nothing to do for two hours, it was really weird," said Bard. "It's not a bad thing, it's just something you got to get used to. Every guy has their own thing.
"[John] Lackey walks around with no pants on, bounces a baseball, eats peanut butter and jelly. Jon Lester's got his headphones on, but he's still walking around, talking to guys. Everyone has their own thing. Curt Schilling was a guy that nobody could talk to until the last pitch was thrown. I just try to be me -- whatever that is."
The Red Sox expect that Bard will be someone who can get a lot of outs for them every fifth day. He convinced manager Bobby Valentine in their first conversation that he had the conviction to switch roles.
"Confidence is everything in life -- yet you build confidence through repetition and success," Valentine said. "He has an image of himself as a starter and a successful pitcher, yet we all know he needs to get some successful starts under his belt so that the confidence he has in his image becomes confidence that he has in his being."