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BOSTON (CBS) – Daniel Bard is excited and ready to take the mound for the first time as a starter Tuesday night, as the Red Sox continue their series against the Blue Jays in Toronto.
“It’s going to be fun. It’s been a long process to build up to this point and I’ve put in a lot of work to get here,” Bard told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Jonny Miller. “I’m ready to get out there and compete.”
Bard entered Spring Training determined to make the jump from reliever to starter, and now finds himself at the back-end of the Red Sox’ rotation. A starter in college, Bard went 23-12 for the UNC Tar Heels, and was drafted as one by Boston in 2006. After some early struggles though, the fireballer was converted to reliever, and came up as a set-up man touted by many as Boston’s closer of the future.
After impressive campaigns out of the pen in 2009 and 2010, Bard was a bit shaky in 2011. He set a club record with 21 scoreless appearances, but also lost nine games, including four in the month of September.
So when the 2011 season came to an abrupt end, and Boston would be without two starters in John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka to begin 2012, Bard saw the chance to return to the hill as a starter.
“I went to [management] when I saw that we only had three starters going into last offseason. I saw it as an opportunity,” said Bard. “When I proved to myself I could get big league hitters out, I wanted a chance to do it in a different role. This kind of presented itself and I brought it up to the club; they obviously like the idea of it so that’s how we got here.”
“It’s very different,” the 26-said of the preparation that goes into being a starter rather than a reliever. “It’s the mental side of it; building the pitch count up, stretching that area of focus out to an hour and a half, two hours instead of 10 minutes. So that’s a big difference.”
Bard put together a decent spring, going 2-2 with a 6.57 ERA (allowing 7 runs over 2.2 innings to the Cardinals in his third start did not help those numbers) as a starter. But his big challenge will come now that he will face batters multiple times a game, rather than just once. Bard’s task is to fool batters on their second and third time around in the lineup.
It starts with a tough challenge Tuesday night in Toronto with Jays right fielder Jose Bautista. Bard has won each of their first six battles, but that challenge will get a lot more difficult in the later innings.
“He’s a guy who is smart. You can’t get him out the same way every time,” Bard said of Bautista. “He has a few holes, but not many big ones. You have to pick your spots and keep mixing things up on him. He’s too smart to get him out the same way.”
And while he is now in the rotation, Bard still feels for the Sox’ bullpen, who faltered mightily in Detroit. After a pair of walk-off wins by the Tigers, there was an outcry to move Bard to the pen as the team’s closer. But even before Monday’s stellar outing from the pitching staff, Bard said he has faith in his former pen pals.
“We have the guys out there that are more than capable. It’s a tough run to start the year. I know exactly how those guys feel, I’ve done it before,” he said, reminding himself of the four runs he surrendered on Opening Day last season. “They’re going to figure it out; they’re all though guys and they’ve done it before. They’ll get there.”
As for moving back into the bullpen, that notion isn’t even on Bard’s radar.
“Right now I’m a starter. They haven’t come to me with anything like that yet. Until that happens, I’m just going to focus on being a starter,” he said.