FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘ So, what to make of Daniel Bard ‘s first appearance of the spring ‘ a one-inning outing against Northeastern at JetBlue Park Thursday afternoon, in which he struck out the side.
Catcher David Ross : ‘Bardo struggled early on and then found it. He actually made adjustment midway through the inning and looked sharp. But early on it was just trying to get his body under control. Even though we’re going up against college kids, there’s still some adrenaline. I had some nerves and adrenaline today.
‘I caught him in two bullpens. I think he’s working on some things mechanically. What’s promising is that when he got out of whack with his fastball he flipped that breaking ball out there, which is a good sign to me as a catcher. He has a very good slider, and a very good changeup.’
Manager John Farrell : ‘He went from a guy who was ultra-aggressive and ultra-confident to one who, with the change in role came a change in mindset. We’re getting back to that shorter stint and aggressive mentality. That’s something he set out to establish or regain and prove. Today was the first step in that process.
‘In conversation and in side work, in BP, yeah, I don’t think it’s going to happen over night. The one thing we want to do is establish the aggressiveness first, and if we have to make some adjustments to gain more consistent command, that might be the case. The first step is more from the mentality side of things.
‘At times, he leveraged it downhill, his delivery was on time. There were other times you could see him come off the pitch where he’d run it up and in to a right-hander. That’s not totally unexpected.’
Bard: ‘I’m satisfied. Not perfect obviously, but it’s a huge step in the right direction. It’s always good to get out of the gate with some good results. The focus today was just being in the zone as much as possible. I threw two pitches for strikes. Just go from there. ‘¦
‘It was exciting. The live BP, I don’t think I got any swings. I was happy with how I threw the ball but they were just tracking pitches. This was the first real adrenaline rush. It’s a lot of fun.’
The pitcher would finish his 18-pitch outing throwing 13 strikes, while only allowing a leadoff single to the Huskies’ Connor Lyons.
As mentioned by Ross, the reliever struggled with fastball command early on before straightening himself out, thanks in part to the use of an effective slider.
‘I think sometimes some pitchers to slow them down you call breaking balls. I think that’s the process that you use,’ Ross explained. ‘I thought early on he was just leaving fastball arm-side, and it was running up and in. He settled down a little later, getting the ball back down and away, which is what I want. When righties can throw the ball glove-side down and away that is a key for us as a safety valve to go to, especially with him being as good as he is.’
‘He doesn’t overthrow his secondary stuff as he might with his fastball, and that’s just the counter-adjustment from pitch to pitch,’ Farrell said. ‘That’s probably the most encouraging thing. He didn’t get into a three or four pitch sequence where he was missing to the arm side. There was the ability to make the adjustment in one or two pitches.’
All in all, Bard came away from the exercise feeling he had taken a much-welcome step in the right direction.
‘The last time I really came into camp with something to prove was my first big league spring training in ’09,’ said Bard, whose next outing will be Monday in Port Charlotte against the Rays. ‘I was not supposed to make the team by any means, but I had a lot of people I was supposed to impress in my mind. I was able to come out and do that, and win a spot about a month later in the bullpen. It’s not that much different this year, besides the fact that everyone knows my name and knows who I am. But I feel like I have something to prove.’