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Juan Nieves explains Daniel Bard’s assignment, progress

03.28.13 at 6:55 pm ET
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Daniel Bard

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Just before the Red Sox game against the Twins Thursday night at JetBlue Park, pitching coach Juan Nieves spoke on the topic of Daniel Bard being sent to Double-A Portland:

ON BARD’S OVERALL PROGRESS

“I’ve seen tremendous improvement from him. Just first of all, the fact that he’s healthy. Two, we’ve seen velocity increase. Third, the velocity is back. I think there’s more in the tank. If you think about it, from last year to right now, what is it? Seven weeks? You’re going from a guy who was the supreme setup guy to a guy that pretty much became a different pitcher. Now he’s in the process of getting back. I’ll tell you one thing, I’ve been very pleased with the process. I would have enjoyed the fact of having him in winter ball, maybe winter ball last winter and starting the process earlier. You get another month and a half, two months of him, we should see incredible results. Because he’s on the right track. It’s just not all happening all at once. Listen, Rome was never built in one day. I think his baby steps will bring him back and I’m sure we’ll see the Bard we’ve seen before. I’ve seen incredible, great progress from what I saw on video this past winter of how he pitched last year. Oh my god, tremendous strides.”

HOW HE TOOK THE NEWS

“Oh, he was fine. He knows that he’s not where he wants to be. I think he knows where we’re going with it. I think the direction is there and now how much work he puts into it and how important it is every day, that’s going to be the key. Knowing that the process is baby steps so it doesn’t just happen every night.”

WHY DOUBLE-A?

“I think also the fact of, sometimes guys go to Triple-A, they think, ‘If I have a couple of good starts or a good game, a couple of six or seven games in a row when I’m good, oh, OK I’m back.’ No, this is a process. Consistency is going to be very important. Not only from the performance itself, is how his consistency is with his delivery and his thoughts. Everything that we incorporate before, the plan is going to be. It’s not a demotion. It’s just, we want him to understand that there’s a process. It’s not that he goes to Triple-A and has two good outings and I’m ready. He knows it’s going to take time. He got to where he was in a while too. The way back is not just one or two outings.”

“I never thought four, five, six, having an untouchable spring was the actual goal. It’s the consistency of that. You can give up runs in spring training. A guy will bloop one in. A ball doesn’t get turned for a double play. There’s so many things that can happen. It’s the consistency of the bullpens, of the throwing, of performance — seeing pitches that are quality pitches in the big leagues, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

WHAT HAS THE TEAM SEEN?

“Thought process. Mechanics. His true velocity. There’s more there. I know there’s more there. But the consistency of his delivery will be very important, the throwing. We’re not looking for him to be like Greg Maddux, pinpointing, but the ball to be where he wants to be. You know something? A lot of times, they know. But the consistency of strikes — and called strikes, not only swinging strikes. Sometimes you look at a lot of swinging teams that makes pitchers look a lot better than they are because they swing so much out of the zone. The consistency of the strike zone is very important to me. It doesn’t mean you have to dot it. You just have to be in that zone to be consistent.”

MORE ON THE PROCESS

“The thought process of nothing inhibits the glove, having confidence, saying to yourself, ‘I can throw a strike right here. It’s no problem.’ Never hesitant to retreat more to let it go. Attacking. It means you’re taking your best stuff to the glove all the time and nothing that inhibits that should be in the thought process. He needs to be, ‘I’m going. I’m going. I’m going.’ We work on our craft on the side. We throw 10-15 pitches. The delivery, the rest is where I’m throwing the ball. You can never have a thought process that is divided — thinking about the delivery or ‘Where am I throwing the pitch?’ That’s hard. It’s like a hitter thinking, ‘What are my hands going to do?’ And here comes the pitch. It’s hard. You can’t have a divided though process.”

MORE VELOCITY?

“Absolutely. There’s a lot there as long as health is there. If he’s healthy, I don’t see any reason he shouldn’t come back and be the guy.”

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