As it became apparent that John Farrell would indeed succeed Bobby Valentine as manager of the Boston Red Sox, fans began to speculate on the help the former pitching coach could bring the beleaguered pitching staff.
The last week has been a pretty good time for Boston pitchers for the most part--at least the ones we have reason to pay attention to. Ryan Dempster was fantastic, John Lackey bounced back, Jon Lester had a pretty good outing, and today Clay Buchholz worked three strong frames against the Twins. Perhaps the most encouraging performance, however, came after Buchholz' day ended and Daniel Bard took the mound.
It's been a while, you might realize, since we last saw Mr. Bard. Despite there being plenty of work available for relievers early in spring training, Bard hadn't made an appearance since February 25th, when he pitched a scoreless inning against the Rays, but hit one batter and walked another in the process. His Velocity was a little higher than it was at the end of 2012, but still, it was a mixed bag.
Since then, Bard has been working on his mechanics, and while it might be a bit of a reach to say that John Farrell is a pitching wizard who is directly responsible for fixing Bard, today some of the old flamethrower showed up. No, he didn't hit 100, but he did pitch in the upper 90s, hitting 97 according to Rob Bradford. He finished off the inning 1-2-3, striking out the side in order with both the fastball and slider doing their job.
It's one outing. It's one outing in spring for that matter. But it's a pretty huge step forward for a guy who has spent the last year lost at sea.
Having Bard back to being Bard would be a timely development for the Red Sox, because their relievers are dropping like flies at the moment. Sort of.
We've known about Craig Breslow's shoulder troubles, but it seems like they're more serious an issue than we may have realized. John Farrell indicated today that, while the left-handed pitcher is currently on a throwing program, he's unlikely to be ready by the end of spring training.
That's unfortunate news on its own, but it's worse when combined with the recent revelation that Franklin Morales is dealing with a bad back. There's an update there too, with the news at least slightly better, as he seems to be responding well to anti-inflammatory medication. Still, it remains in question whether Morales will be able to get back to throwing in time to break camp with the big league team. If Morales can't make it, Bard alone won't be able to fill the void, as the Sox will be in need of someone who can provide some longer outings.
Injured relievers, though, seem like small fish in the face of a potential issue with David Ortiz. While David Ortiz did make it back to the basepaths today, it was not always clear that was in the cards. The designated hitter's heel has been bothering him as he tries to push through his daily routines to get ready to make it into a game and get ready for Opening Day. How bad is it? Ortiz himself said that, if this was the regular season, he probably wouldn't be playing.
The doctors had told Ortiz to expect some pain or soreness, and it's been stressed that this should be considered normal progression for him, but it's hard to look at an injury that's eight months old and still lingering in some way and not be frightened. Doctors are doctors, and they know more about this than most of us can ever hope to. But with just three weeks to go before the regular season this is hardly comforting news.