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Daniel Bard on thoracic outlet syndrome surgery: ‘I just knew it was the right thing to do’

02.05.14 at 6:36 pm ET
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Appearing on The Bradford Files podcast, former Red Sox pitcher Daniel Bard talked with Rob Bradford about his recent injury diagnosis and surgery, and the affects he said it had on him the last few years. To listen to the interview, click here.

“I was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome and the surgery they do to fix that is, it’s called a rib extension and they actually go in behind your collarbone, on my throwing arm side, and take out half that first rib,” Bard said. “The idea behind it is it frees up that nerve that runs over the top of it. That’s what they did. Sounds pretty invasive. It was a pretty painful first few days but feeling good right, about a month out of surgery.”

Bard had the surgery on Jan. 2 and says that he is on schedule to throw in two weeks, right in line for spring training with the Rangers. Before having the surgery, Bard was nervous about doing it.

Former Red Sox teammate Josh Beckett was the first to suggest Bard might be dealing with TOS (with Beckett having undergone surgery for the ailment during the 2013 season), reaching out to the reliever in early September. Bard then was put in touch with former Red Sox trainer Mike Reinold in early December after struggling during a stint in the Puerto Rico winter league.

Reinold referenced tests the Red Sox had performed on Bard in previous seasons that suggested there might be an issue, encouraging the righty to be examined by a team of specialists in the Dallas area. The determination was that it would be best if Bard underwent surgery.

“For me it was hard to pull the trigger and go, ‘Yeah, go in and cut out a chunk of my rib, just see if it works.’ … The doctors really did, it’s not like they were talking me into it, they just seemed very convinced themselves that the surgery was going to help me and over time it kind of sunk in and I just knew it was the right thing to do.”

For Bard, the thoracic outlet syndrome was made worse from his decline in play and move to the starting rotation in 2012.

“I think through the whole starting thing it happened to coincide with when, and I think the increased workload of starting in 2012 probably sped up the process and made this situation a little worse,” Bard said. “And not to mention you’€™re not feeling a lot of outward symptoms, you’re not feeling pain. So you don’€™t think anything’s wrong with you physically and then when the results of what you expect them to be, velocity is down, command is a little bit worse. You immediately try to start fixing things and the first thing you try to fix in baseball is usually mechanics. If it’s not mechanics, it’s something mental. … It was just kind of a snowball effect of me trying to fix things when in reality I was kind of working with a not fully functional nerve in my arm which I think affected me more than anyone realized at the time.”

Even before the surgery, Bard had interest from multiple teams, settling on the Rangers on Feb. 3.

“There were some teams that were interested, the Cubs being one of them, beforehand, before I even had the surgery that were showing interest,” Bard said. “Then the Rangers kind of came in after they found out about the surgery. But they came in strong and made me feel really welcome and wanted. It just felt like a good fit.”

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