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For Daniel Bard, a new beginning — and an opportunity

04.25.13 at 11:15 pm ET
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So, about that notion that Daniel Bard‘s stay in the big leagues is likely short-lived …

Not so fast. At least not yet.

The Red Sox called up the right-hander from Double-A Portland on Wednesday, at a time when he’d started to get locked into his delivery. In his first big league appearance of 2013, in a lopsided 7-2 Red Sox victory against an Astros team that owns the worst record in the American League, Bard showed the kind of stuff that suggests that he could assert himself as a piece of the Sox bullpen beyond the coming days.

Summoned to pitch the ninth inning with the Red Sox up by five runs, Bard featured a 93-96 mph fastball that had late life, as evidenced by a pair of swings and misses (one a check-swing) en route to a strikeout of Chris Carter and a game-ending comebacker by Matt Dominguez. In one inning of work, he gave up a hit (a single on a fastball) and got one punchout while throwing 10 of 18 pitches for strikes, though that number is slightly misleading due to the tight strike zone exhibited by home plate ump Tim McClelland. His fastball was consistently in or around the zone, and Bard wasn’t shy about using it.

“Aggressive. Attacked the strike zone,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “He looked free and easy, looked confident, and that was a good inning of work and a very encouraging one. We continue to get consistency out of him, what it can add to the overall depth of those guys in the pen — that was a good inning of work tonight.”

While nothing is set in stone going forward, Farrell’s enthusiasm suggested that Bard has a chance to kick the door open for a lengthier big league stint than was initially anticipated when news of his call-up circulated. After all, the numbers game is already shifting in his favor.

The Sox will still need to clear a pair of roster spots for John Lackey (expected to start on Sunday) and Craig Breslow (who could be activated as soon as next week). But with Alfredo Aceves having been sent down to Triple-A on Wednesday, one vacancy was created (with Ryan Lavarnway serving as a roster place-holder for Lackey until Sunday). Whereas Franklin Morales had appeared to be close, his setback due to a sore pectoral muscle means that he’s likely weeks away from being activated. So, Bard would now appear to be in competition with Alex Wilson (who, like Bard, has minor league options) as to who will stay and who will go.

Bard’s first exposure to the big leagues this year suggested that he has a chance to stick. For Bard, after spending the first three weeks of the season in Double-A, there was comfort in the familiarity of the Fenway Park setting on a big league stage.

“The adrenaline came pretty easy. It was nice being able to go out there and compete, having a delivery I could trust and go out there and give the batter my best stuff. That’s what we did tonight,” said Bard. “It wasn’t perfect, but I made some good adjustments pitch-to-pitch and let the stuff play around the zone. … The focus was good. I made adjustments pitch-to-pitch. I didn’t let anything snowball on me. That’s what got me through the inning.”

The result? Not only a scoreless inning, but also enthusiastic handshakes from his teammates after he recorded the final out of the game.

“Guys have been awesome. I didn’t know everybody would be so happy to see me,” said Bard. “To be able to go out and make my season debut throwing the ninth inning at home was pretty cool.”

The outing represented a first step for Bard in his efforts to re-establish himself in the big leagues. That it came against a woeful Astros team in a one-sided contest undoubtedly needs to be recognized.

Even so, the 27-year-old now has a foundation, a 0.00 ERA with one strikeout and no walks in the big leagues in 2013. How much of an opportunity he gets remains to be seen. But if this was a first audition to stick, Bard certainly merited a callback.

Read More: alex wilson, Daniel Bard,
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