They took one of baseball’s best relief pitchers and put him in the starting rotation.
The experiment was fair enough. Bard has electric stuff, wanted to be a starter and the Red Sox were willing to give him a shot.
The experiment was an unmitigated disaster.
As a starter, Bard went 4-6 with a 5.30 ERA in 54.1 innings pitched. The exclamation point on the disaster came on June 3 against the Toronto Blue Jays. In that game, he lasted 1.2 innings. He allowed five runs, six walks, one home run and hit two batters.
He was sent down to Triple-A Pawtucket soon after the game.
Bard wants to be a starter, so he was not happy being demoted—but he may have damned himself of that chance with his complete incompetence in the rotation and his one brilliant bullpen performance of the 2012 season.
That brilliant performance came on April 23 against the Minnesota Twins.
The results were what you would expect from an elite relief pitcher. The Twins were at the plate, the game was tied, there were no outs and there was a runner on third. Bard put out the fire and the Red Sox went on to win the game. Bard got the win.
Out of the bullpen, Bard is 1-0, with a 0.00 ERA in 0.2 innings pitched.
That sample size isn’t so small if you factor in his numbers from 2011.
As Boston’s set-up man last year, he had a 3.33 ERA in 70 games. He averaged 3 walks per nine innings and struck out 74 batters.
As a starter, his average walk numbers have nearly doubled at 6.1 walks per nine innings.
It was apparent back in April, with his performance against Minnesota, that Bard belonged in the bullpen. His inefficiency as a starter only confirmed it.
Bard has to bite the bullet on this one.
Daisuke Matsuzaka is back in the rotation and has a much longer track record than Bard. Even with Josh Beckett on the DL due to shoulder inflammation, it would be surprising to see Bard in the rotation again this year.
If Red Sox management had any thoughts of returning Bard back to Boston’s rotation, they are not showing it with the way he’s being used in Pawtucket.
Bard is being used almost exclusively out of the bullpen and has been very effective. According to ESPN,
“News: Bard tossed another two scoreless innings of relief for Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday. (Mon Jun 18)
Spin: Bard allowed two hits without a walk while striking out two. He has four consecutive scoreless innings for the PawSox.”
It is time Bard and the Red Sox realize what Bard really is: an elite relief pitcher who was never meant to be a starter in the first place.
stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com