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Andrew Miller feels for good friend Daniel Bard, can relate to situation

09.01.13 at 12:25 pm ET
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Daniel Bard‘s story took another sad turn on Sunday, as the once-dominant reliever was designated for assignment to help make room on the 40-man roster for recent acquisitions Quintin Berry and John McDonald.

Bard’s return from an abdominal injury has been nothing short of a disaster. He has experienced the same control issues that have completely derailed his career over the last two seasons, walking 27 batters in 15 1/3 innings split between the Gulf Coast League and Low-A Lowell.

The one guy who can sympathize with Bard perhaps more than any other is Andrew Miller, a college teammate and good friend who once experienced similar struggles.

Miller was the sixth overall pick by the Tigers in 2006, and he wound up being the centerpiece of the deal that sent Miguel Cabrera from Florida to Detroit in 2007. Miller couldn’t live up to the hype, though, as he posted a 5.89 ERA and 1.73 WHIP over the next three seasons.

He started the 2010 season in the minors and was eventually traded to the Red Sox after the season for the meager return of Dustin Richardson. Miller was unimpressive in his first season in Boston, but finally figured things out as a reliever and managed to put together a solid 2012 season. He got off to a good start again this season before suffering a season-ending foot injury in July.

“I never had as much success as [Bard] at this level, but his situation and my situation… you’re so well-known, and you’re just battling and struggling to get back here,” Miller said of the similarities between his past and Bard’s present.

“You feel like you’ve accomplished something, but you just can’t get back to the level you were at. You just have to grind it out and keep plugging away and eventually you’ll get through it. A lot of times you take for granted the times when it’s easier. It’s a hard game. There are so many aspects of it. The mental aspect can be so tough at times when you’re not having success.”

Miller said he still talks to Bard every week or two — their most recent conversation was actually about fantasy football rather than baseball. Miller said Bard seems to be in good spirits despite the struggles.

“He seemed like he was in a pretty good place coming back from that injury,” Miller said. “It’s hard when you’re hurt because all you want to do is get out there and compete and have a chance. And then when you do get a chance, you’re rusty and all that stuff. But I think from a health standpoint, last I heard, he felt like he was getting better and getting over that part of it.”

Miller said it’s been tough to watch Bard struggle the way he has.

“Obviously I always want to see him succeed,” Miller said. “I want him to be doing well. Unfortunately that isn’t always going to be the case, for all of us. No matter who you are, you’re going to struggle at some point. At this point, you’re just pulling for him to get better and get back here, whatever road that takes. Like I said, it seems like he’s in pretty good spirits all things considered. It’s just one of those things that it is what it is. You have to come through it as a better person and hope you learn from it.”

Miller said he doesn’t expect Bard to be too deterred by the fact he was taken off the 40-man roster. And if Bard is claimed by another team, Miller said a fresh start somewhere else might not be the worst thing either.

“Daniel’s a pretty resilient guy,” Miller said. “I think he really does see the big picture a lot. It’s never fun to have to have that conversation and have to go through that kind of thing, but at the same time, there’s a chance it could lead to another opportunity or something better.

“You just have to fight your way back on there. I think that’s certainly doable. He’s a pretty resilient guy, and he’s shown what he’s capable of doing. It’s just a matter of getting back to that level.”

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