Boston Red Sox Reliever Daniel Bard Gearing Up for a Long Season

George CampbellContributor IMarch 9, 2011

Bard pitching to the Astros in Ft. Myers. G. Campbell photo
Bard pitching to the Astros in Ft. Myers. G. Campbell photo

Red Sox setup man Daniel Bard had his best outing of the spring Tuesday, as the Sox beat the Astros 3-2.

Bard was in the unusual position of coming in the inning after closer Jonathan Papelbon. He pitched the sixth inning, getting out all three batters he faced, including two by strikeout.

“I felt good, had some timing issues my first couple games, I kind of figured out what I was doing yesterday and today, and took it out there today,” Bard said after the game. 

“That’s what I expect of myself. It felt good to get the results matching how you feel.”

His first few outings were not so good, but he feels good and is making the adjustments he needs to be ready for the regular season.

“My arm feels good and my body feels good,” he had said prior to the game.

“I’m just trying to find the consistency as early as possible. The results haven’t been that great for me so far, but the arm feels good and the pitches have been good, but I’ve just been falling behind guys early, so I think it's just the mental approach to each hitter that’s still coming along.”

While his role in the Red Sox bullpen is pretty clearly defined, he does not take anything for granted.

“There’s always competition, and I think competition is a good thing, especially for me. I kind of feed off it. It helps me on the field knowing there’s somebody right there ready to take your job at any given time. It makes you kind of play to your peak.”

The Sox added a number of relievers during the offseason, including former White Sox closer Bobby Jenks and others like Matt Albers, Dan Wheeler and Rich Hill.

They still have many of the same guys he worked in the pen with last year too: Papelbon, Hideki Okajima and Scott Atchison. There are several others with the club this spring vying for one of the few available bullpen spots.

“Nothing is guaranteed the next year, especially as relievers,” Bard explained. “It's consistency, it’s the guys that are consistent that stick around.

“I came out knowing my role last year. I knew that setup role was kind of mine to blow, based on how things had finished up in 2009. I think a lot of relievers are driven by the fear of failure, and I’m no different.”

Bard is not setting any goals as far as numbers go for 2011, but has a clear mindset for what he wants to achieve with the Red Sox.

“Being the same guy every time the phone rings and my name is called, being ready to pitch every day and try to match what I did last year and help us win a championship. Numbers wise, a lot of things are out of my control, but I know if I can take care of the things I can control off the field, things like my preparation, then the on-field things will take care of themselves.”

Some pitchers have intense pregame rituals prior to a game. Bard’s pregame preparation includes doing something relaxing. He was practicing this ritual before Tuesday’s game against the Astros.

“Usually at home games around Fenway there’s a guitar sitting around and I pick it up and play 30 minutes before game time or so. I don’t know if it relaxes me or what, I just enjoy playing it.”

Apparently, it works because in 2010 he led the American League with 32 holds and became just the third Red Sox reliever in team history to pitch over 70 innings and have an ERA under 2.00.

Hopefully Bard will be entertaining his teammates with his guitar well into October this year.