Over the weekend Daniel Bard reported to camp with the Pittsburgh Pirates, ready for a fresh start with a new team. The former Red Sox reliever signed a minor league deal with the club in January and is on his fourth organization despite all of his major league innings coming during his time in Boston.
From 2009 to 2011, Bard was among the best relievers in the game, posting a 2.88 ERA in nearly 200 innings with over a strikeout per inning. Although Bard hit a rough patch in September 2011, allowing 13 runs in just 11 innings while walking nine and hitting a batter, he still appeared to be the heir apparent to departing closer Jonathan Papelbon. Until, that is, the departure of Terry Francona and Theo Epstein and the arrival of Bobby Valentine brought with it the Daniel Bard, Starting Pitcher experiment.
It was tempting. An upper-90s starter throwing 200 innings can help a team more than a closer if they’re both good. However, the experiment ended almost before it began as Bard lost all semblance of control--or perhaps failed to find the control he'd lost in September?--and in 59 innings (10 starts, seven relief appearances) he allowed 41 earned runs, walked 43, struck out just 38, and hit a whopping eight batters. Eight!
After designating the troubled reliever for assignment towards the end of the 2013 regular season (he didn’t even sniff a chance at that playoff run), the Red Sox lost Bard to the man who'd so recently left him behind, as he was claimed off waivers by the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer Cubs.
In three appearances that fall in the Puerto Rican Winter League Bard recorded a total of one out. He allowed seven earned runs, walked nine, and hit three of the 13 batters he faced. Bard was then granted free agency and signed with the Texas Rangers for 2014. At least he made it to the regular season, although the results weren’t much better despite being 29 years old in the South Atlantic League. The story was the same: four games, two outs, 13 runs, nine walks, seven hit batters out of 18, and just one strikeout.
Even Steve Blass won’t believe this. Former Bos P Daniel Bard’s Minor season line: 0.2-0-13-13-9-1. That’s right: 13 runs w/out a hit #MLB— Tom Singer (@Tom_Singer) June 16, 2014
Signed by the Cubs for 2015, Bard, a non-roster invitee was sent to minor league camp as spring training wound down and didn’t ever leave extended spring training. That’s a sad ending for a former major leaguer.
But spring is a time for hope in the baseball world. And Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage is the current pitcher whisperer, fixing Francisco Liriano, J.A. Happ, and Edinson Volquez . If anyone can coax talent out of Daniel Bard again, it’s him.