It's been a rough season for Daniel Bard, and, as brief as it was, the same could be said for Zach Stewart. The latter made just the one start for Boston, and was hammered by the Los Angeles Angels for nine runs in three innings, but on the year owns a 7.91 ERA in 19 games and 33 frames. Bard attempted to become a starter, an experiment that didn't work out, and was demoted to the minors to attempt a return to form. All that's happened since then is that he's found it even more difficult to find the strike zone consistently, resulting in 29 walks against 32 strikeouts with Pawtucket, and more free passes than punch outs since his return to the bigs.
Even with Boston mired in a lost season, it's difficult to find situations to use these two in that won't end up being soul-crushing for both fans and the pitchers themselves. Because of this, both pitchers threw simulated games at Fenway Park on Tuesday, prior to the actual contest against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Bard hasn't pitched against live hitting in a week now, with his last appearance coming on September 19 against the Rays. He gave up three runs and three walks against five batters spanning 14 pitches, and it seemed as if that might close the door on his season. That won't be the case, though, as this simulated inning was just a chance to get him some work, before finding the next opportunity to use him in a game. Basically, Boston wants to give Bard a chance to finish the year on a more positive note than the one currently playing. If he can just get through one inning unscathed in the next week, you can bet that will be his last of 2012.
As for Stewart, the right-hander is going to start on Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles in Baltimore. Part of this is the same thinking that is leading Boston to want to give Bard a chance to redeem himself before the regular season ends: Stewart was so awful last time out that they want to give him another shot to do better, rather than have him deal with his lone Red Sox appearance being a terrible one. Since he hasn't pitched in weeks, his last outing coming for Pawtucket before their season ended, the simulated game was even more necessary from a rust perspective than for Bard.
Stewart, acquired as the main piece in the Kevin Youkilis trade with the Chicago White Sox, is in his age-25 season. He still has some promise, but he's also a project, likely with more emphasis on that point than the former. He's had better stuff than results throughout his career, and has struggled in each attempted transition to the majors. The Red Sox have had some luck with this type of arm lately -- Andrew Miller, Clayton Mortensen, Franklin Morales, etc. -- but Stewart hasn't been pushed to the bullpen yet, like they have.
It makes sense, for now, as Boston lacks reliable starting pitching depth for 2013 (granted, that's a problem that can be solved over the off-season). He still has an option for 2013, so there's no rush to give him a big-league role at present, but starting now, in a season where Boston's purpose has more to do with 2013 than anything, makes sense.