Daniel Bard: We see the big picture
BoSox got off to shaky start, but righty is confident in team
The Red Sox started off the season losing their first six games, and 10 of their first 12, before rebounding in recent days. One of the club's strengths figures to be its bullpen and young right-hander Daniel Bard. Bard posted a 1.93 ERA in 73 games last season and, after giving up four runs in his first game this season, hasn't been scored upon in his last seven appearances. He recently answered questions for MLBPLAYERS.com:
MLBPLAYERS.com: The season is very young, but your club has already experienced a losing streak and now is on a bit of a roll. How do you view Boston's start in 2011?
Daniel Bard: I think we are finally now playing like everybody thought we would play. It's hard to look past that first road trip because it was really bad and we had some ugly losses in there. But we are trained as baseball players to see the big picture. It's cliché to say this, but really, it is a long season. Every team will hit a stretch of four or five games where they skid. Ours happened to be six, and they happened to be the first six of the year. Since then, we have proven to be a pretty good team.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Do you think the struggles by the club were magnified because it was the start of the season?
Bard: Sure. Nobody wants to dig themselves out of a hole. But if there was a team built to do that, it is this team.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Your team's success of late has been led by your starting staff. How have they stepped up?
Bard: They have set the tone. They have been unbelievable. They have really gotten deep into games and that saves our bullpen. Saving our arms is huge. They also have handed us some leads. I didn't throw the ball well the first couple of outings. We also weren't in a position where we were protecting too many leads. We were coming in down some runs or in a tied game late. Now, we are getting leads to protect, and our offense is squaring up a lot of balls and putting runs up on the board. It is all clicking now.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You are one of many power arms in this club's bullpen. How confident are you as a group in holding leads late in games?
Bard: I know we are real confident as a group. I think the team feels pretty good about us, too. You can mix and match us down there. Jonathan Papelbon will generally pitch in the ninth, but we have four or five guys who can help bridge the gap to him. We have a lot of quality arms, and that is a good problem to have.
MLBPlayers.com: You had a great season last year. Do you put that in the rearview mirror, or do you look to build upon it?
Bard: A little of both. You can't take it for granted. Then again, what I did last year won't help me have success this year. Still, I can use it for confidence. When you give up four runs in your first outing of the year, you can look back and say that it is a fluke thing. I know that type of outing is not me as a pitcher. I truly believe that, and that is why I am able to bounce back. It is about continuing to work hard and not relying on what you have done in the past.
MLBPLAYERS.com: This is your third season in the big leagues. How have you changed as a pitcher?
Bard: I think I have learned how to relax more while I'm on the mound. I have been better at taking things pitch by pitch. That is big mentally. Physically, the biggest changes come with my mechanics. I have learned how to put a downward angle on the ball. That is important. When my arm is on top of the ball, guys have a hard time putting a good swing on the ball and they tend to hit more groundballs.
MLBPLAYERS.com: When you pitched in college, you were a starter. Did you ever envision your pro path taking you to the bullpen?
Bard: Right when I got drafted, it was pretty evident that I was going to be a reliever. They told me to start in the Minors, but they were asking me if I thought I was a reliever or a starter at this level. At that point, I didn't care and right now I don't care. I am happy with the role that I am in.
MLBPLAYERS.com: At the University of North Carolina your team played in the College World Series. What did you take from that experience?
Bard: It was one of the best baseball experiences of my life. It was a lot of fun. It was very rewarding. It was such a team effort as our school had not been to Omaha for some 15, 16 years. When I went to college, that was one of my goals -- take Carolina back to Omaha. I didn't play that well going into that run, but I was still thrilled to be a part of it. I am still great friends with so many of those teammates.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Is it hard to play baseball at a school where college basketball is so dominant?
Bard: Our team had always been middle of the road when it came to the ACC. Now, they are a top-five team in the country. It is great that we are back on the map. A lot of people put a lot of hard work into that program.
Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.