It occured to me the other day that no one has heard Daniel Bard speak in quite a while. Probably not since he first joined the PawSox to iron out his mechanics and then rejoin Boston. Things didn’t quite work out that way. The PawSox are in the final week of the regular season, hunting down the Wild Card berth and Bard is a mainstay in the Pawtucket bullpen. Bard was asked to assess 2012, both on the field and personally. “I’ve learned a lot, to say the least. It’s been a crazy season. Not what I expected if you talked to me back in February. At the same time, it’s part of my journey, part of my career. I’m confident I’m going to come out a better person, a better pitcher. I know I’ve learned a lot and I feel like I’m in a pretty good place right now. I finally have a sense of comfort out there. I feel like I’m back in control. I’m anxious to see what the future holds.”
Bard says he can’t afford to waste time thinking “what if I hadn’t moved into the starting rotation”. He was, after all the best setup man in the American League, if not all the Majors. “I think it’s natural to wonder what might have happened if I’d moved back to the pen when (Andrew) Bailey went down. I think it happened for a reason. The way things played out, I think I’ve been put through these trials to make me better or make someone else better. It hasn’t been all fun at times, but I think you can learn something from every situation.”
Bards’ 2012 season has been a microcosm of the year the Red Sox have endured. Nothing has gone the way anyone planned. When asked about the blockbuster deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to the Dodgers, Daniel admitted to being stunned. “I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet, just how big that trade was and just what an impact it will have on our season and our future. It’s going to change the landscape of baseball in a lot of ways. It was something the Red Sox kind of had to do. After this year, they had to make a fresh start. I’m glad I’m still here to be a part of it and see what happens next year. Still, it’s sad to see those guys go. I was good friends with all of them. I wish them all the best out there. It will be interesting to see what they (The Red Sox) do with all the freed up finances.”
Despite his struggles at times this year, Bard has remained strong and has never entertained the idea of giving up. “I never thought of shutting it down. I’ve stayed healthy all year. When you’re healthy, you can keep going out there and working on things. I’ve been blessed to stay healthy. For me, it’s just a matter of taking it one day at a time. Each outing, each day. Whether it goes the way I planned or not. Each day I get a fresh start. Don’t let the last day beat you. I try to get it out of my system. It doesn’t matter today, what you did yesterday. That’s how I try to approach it.” Bard adds that he rarely loses sleep over a tough outing, but it’s not because he doesn’t care. “No, I rarely lose sleep, whether it’s going good or bad. I’ve had some frustrating drives home, but I always try to leave it at the ballpark. I don’t let baseball become the most important thing in my life, and that keeps things in perspective for me.”
As a 23 year old coming up through the Boston system, the right hander regularly threw in the upper 90s. His fastball these days is more often in the 91-95 mph range. Daniel isn’t concerned. “If you look back to the Spring, I’m over 100 or 110 innings. That’s more than I’ve thrown in the last three years. In the beginning of the season, I think it was mechanics. I feel I’ve corrected that and cleaned it up for the most part. My velocity isn’t where it was a couple of years ago, but then again, I’m not as young as I used to be. I feel good. My arm feels good.”
Bard is eager for the offseason and getting a fresh start in Fort Myers in February. First he has other things he looks forward to. “I want to spend a lot of time in a deer stand (hunting) and after a couple of weeks, get back to working out and get back into the flow of things.”
Despite his travails, Bard has handled the entire season with class and dignity. He has been nothing but a true professional. The kind of guy you want to root for.