Ever since the Red Sox experimented with the idea of transitioning Bard from a relief pitcher to a starter last season, nothing has gone right for the right-hander. Prior to 2012, Bard posted a 2.88 ERA in 197 innings of work across three seasons and provided Boston with a reliable path to the ninth inning.
Last season, Bard went 5-6 in 17 games (10 starts) while posting a 6.22 ERA in 59.1 innings. Bard was extremely erratic throughout each of his appearances and finished the year with a 6.52 walks-per-nine rate. That was the third highest in baseball for pitchers with at least 50 innings, according to FanGraphs.
Once Bard allowed five earned runs in 1.2 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays in early June, the Red Sox sent him to the minor leagues. He eventually made his way back in late August, but ended up allowing nine earned runs through 4.1 innings over six games.
Needless to say, Bard clearly had some issues to work on over the offseason. Already having Andrew Bailey and acquiring Joel Hanrahan over the winter, though, gave Boston some room to work with. It also allowed the Red Sox to send Bard to the minors to start the season.
Bard did appear in two games for the Red Sox in late April, but was sent down after allowing an earned run in one inning while walking two and striking out one.
Entering Thursday night, Bard had yet to figure things out while pitching for Double-A Portland. In 12 games and 11.2 innings, Bard had a 5.40 ERA and a 9.26 walks-per-nine rate. For those following along at home, those are atrocious numbers.
On Thursday night, Bard had arguably his worst appearance of the year. Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe shared the right-hander’s stat line for those not at the game.
Pete Abraham @PeteAbe
Daniel Bard tonight: 1 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 0 K, 2 WP, 30 pitches, 8 strikes for AA Portland.2013-5-16 01:13:36
Bard’s command throughout May has been a big problem as Danny Knobler of CBS Sports tweeted Thursday night.
Danny Knobler @DannyKnobler
Daniel Bard this month: 91 pitches, 28 strikes. 3 innings, 12 walks, 6 wild pitches.2013-5-16 01:10:20
Boston’s bullpen ranks as the 13th best in baseball in terms of WAR, according to FanGraphs. Most of the Red Sox relievers’ success, though, came back in April when Boston went 18-8. In May, Boston’s bullpen ranks 20th in the majors.
Even with their recent struggles, however, there seems to be no chance that Bard makes a return.
Trying to transition Bard into a starter has proven to be a decision that may have ruined his career. Bard is only 23 years old, but is as far away from the major leagues as any pitcher in the organization—even though he’s in Double-A when he could be pitching for a team lower in the system.
Bard has to start pitching considerably better if he ever wants to play in the majors again. The problem, though, is that he seems to be getting worse as time goes on instead of getting better.