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Ben Cherington confirms Daniel Bard is going to be a starter … at least in February

12.11.11 at 12:51 pm ET

It seemed like an innocent statement that had a kind of ‘cart before the horse’ vibe to it.

Bobby Valentine, while speaking at the ‘Christmas at Fenway’ event Saturday, had this to say about the role of Daniel Bard:

“Daniel [said], as we would hope he would say, ‘Hey, whatever’s best for the team. I’m going to go into spring training saying, Whatever’s best for the team.’ But he’s going to get innings as a starter would in spring training. He’s going to be penciled in to be one of those guys who works going from his bullpen to pitching two innings to pitching four innings to pitching six innings. Whenever we get to that plateau, with the pitching coach I’ll hopefully have by my side soon, and all the members of the staff and front office. We’ll have to make a determination after that 18-20 inning mark as to where he will be during the season. I told him to prepare to be a starter and if that, in fact, does not happen to be ready and willing to be our closer.”

It was previously believed that such a decision would wait until the Red Sox uncovered whom might be available on either the closer or starting pitching market. But evidently the team has decided to jump-start the process, prioritizing the importance of Bard preparing himself heading into February.

In an email to WEEI.com, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington confirmed that Bard would, indeed, be entering spring training as a starter.

“He’ll come to camp as a starter,” Cherington wrote. “Daniel knows we’ll do everything we can to help him succeed in that role and ultimately hes ready to do whatever it takes to win games.”

Jonathan Papelbon, of course, came to camp as a starter in 2007 before being seamlessly switched to closer in March.

Bard told WEEI.com during spring training prior to the 2011 season regarding starting:

“I kind of would like to try it. It’s something I would like to do. It would kind of challenge myself. You’ve never proven yourself, but I know I can do the reliever thing for myself, just as a personal challenge, [starting] would be cool.”

It is a transformation Texas GM Jon Daniels is intimately familiar with, having made the move with C.J. Wilson, Alexi Ogando, and, for the coming season, Neftali Feliz. Daniels notes that perhaps the most important part of the process is the player’s acceptance of the differences facing him.

“The biggest single factor to C.J.’€™s success in the transition last year, in my opinion, was his desire to do it,” wrote Daniels in an e-mail. “That led to everything else — the extra work in the weight room, asking questions of Nolan [Ryan], [pitching coach] Mike [Maddux] and others, studying his craft. Bottom line is he wanted it.”

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