Daniel Bard of the Boston Red Sox delivers a pitch in the eighth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
A front office source for the Red Sox has told Sean McAdam of CSNNE that it's likely Daniel Bard will be shifted back to the bullpen, rather than allowed to continue his transition into that of a starting pitcher. In place of Bard, the reliever many have thought would end up back in the bullpen, Alfredo Aceves, is expected to start.
Bobby Valentine did not seem thrilled with Bard after last night's start, as he threw just the one change-up, a pitch Valentine feels the righty will need. That seems somewhat reactionary, given it's a spring training start, and Bard experimented with the two-seam fastball he's also been asked to work with. (Valentine's claim that 83 pitches over five innings was problematic is also a bit tenuous -- a stretched-out Bard would likely have another two frames in him at that rate.) But these criticisms do give you an opportunity to read between the lines; is Valentine cushioning the eventual blow of Bard's being taken out of the running, by feeding reasoning out there in advance, or is he just being vocal about what needs to improve before Bard is committed to starting?
Bard has not had a great spring thus far, with a 7.11 ERA and 10 walks against six strikeouts in his official innings, but he's also thrown just 12-2/3 frames, and is in the process of being both stretched out and converted. It was never going to be a completed transition by the time April came around, so it's hard to read too much into what we've seen. The Red Sox have to make a decision soon, though, so if they aren't seeing anything they like right now, then they aren't going to force the issue, even if Bard feels he's making progress.
This story has not been confirmed elsewhere, nor has there been an official announcement from the Red Sox on the matter. But if McAdam's source is on target, this means the Red Sox would have Andrew Bailey, Mark Melancon, and Daniel Bard for the seventh, eight, and ninth innings, or some combination of the three on a nightly basis. That would certainly stabilize the bullpen, but if Aceves doesn't cut it as a starter, or Doubront fails to develop as the Sox hope, it could leave a lot of pressure on Aaron Cook to return healthy and productive in the rotation.
We'll update with any additional info, but for now, sans confirmation, this is a rumor. Albeit one from someone with a quality track record.