Toronto, ON, Canada; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Daniel Bard (51) against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays beat the Red Sox 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE
To say that Daniel Bard has already fixed his mechanical issues would show a blatant disregard for reality. That being said, hopeful signs abound that he's starting to get back on the track he veered completely off of in his last major-league start of 2012.
He's hit two batters and walked another pair in his four frames to this point, and in his first appearance he was no better than he had been against Toronto the Sunday before, in the game that resulted in his demotion in the first place. He gave up three runs in that one inning of work, although he did punch two hitters out. That's a small thing, but given how rare strikeouts have become for the right-hander, seeing two of them -- in a single inning, no less! -- has become a bigger deal than it should.
He's settled down a bit since, at least. In his second appearance, he gave up another run, but it wasn't a disastrous frame: a walk, a hit, and two strikeouts. His most recent was reminiscent of the Bard that we know he can be. He let the lead runner on with a walk, erased him with a double play, then caught the last batter of the frame looking on a strikeout. While that's all well and good, the real greatness of the outing came in the next inning, where Bard struck out the side swinging: two on sliders, one on his heater.
Bard topped out at 93 mph, but that's likely where he should be sitting with his fastball, so his work on that front isn't complete. The idea of sending him in relief to work an inning or two at a time, so that he can be tweaked and worked continuously without waiting five days for each appearance, seems to be doing its job. But he's not there yet, and because of that, there's no real word on just when he'll be back in Boston. He has, however, found himself righting his mechanics much faster than he did while in the majors:
"The mechanics felt pretty clean. I'm still searching just a little bit to where I feel they are just right. As a pitcher, you never feel quite perfect. I was able to make those one-pitch adjustments rather than taking four or five pitches to make adjustments, as I have sometimes this year. That's the biggest thing. When I do miss with a pitch, or come out of my delivery a little bit, I can make the adjustment on the next pitch and get back into it."
If Daisuke Matsuzaka can pitch well in Bard's absence, then there is less of a rush to bring Bard back immediately, giving him time to work through everything he needs to and get back to a place where he's comfortable. That's important for Bard, but also important to the Red Sox, who will need him at his best both now and in the future.