Bard’s Start Complicates Matters

Daniel Bard made his first major league start against the Blue Jays last night and the line was ugly: 5 innings; 8 hits; 5 earned runs; 1 walk; and 6 strikeouts. He threw 96 pitches and 65 strikes and didn’t allow a homer.

But the bottom line of the boxscore is misleading. In fact, most of the runs were scored on placement rather than power. Bard’s biggest problem was the inability to throw his changeup for strikes.

Neftali Feliz made his first major league start as well and his line was far more impressive: 7 innings; 4 hits; 0 runs; 2 walks; and 4 strikeouts. He threw 108 pitches and 68 strikes.

Bard took the loss. Feliz got the win. In truth, they didn’t pitch all that differently. Feliz had better control of his changeup and worse control with his fastball and slider.

None of that is going to matter to those who’ve already made their minds up on how Bard needs to be utilized. Because he gave up 5 runs and the Red Sox bullpen is still in flux, the calls will continue to shift Bard into the closer’s role. After all, the argument will go, he lost and didn’t pitch “well”.

The results weren’t good, but Bard was good enough to win if he’d had some better luck.

There will be no such calls for Feliz to be moved back to the bullpen.

Why?

Because the Rangers signed a veteran closer, Joe Nathan, to take over for Feliz, there’s no debate as to Feliz’s role. He’s a starter, period.

The Red Sox traded for Andrew Bailey, who got hurt; and Mark Melancon, who they don’t trust; and they’re trying Alfredo Aceves as the closer now in a desperation maneuver that’s probably not going to work.

With the Rangers depth in the starting rotation and inexpensive signing of Nathan, they don’t have to concern themselves with perception. The Red Sox don’t have that luxury in either area, so they’re going to endure constant demands to put Bard where he “belongs”.

There’s a dichotomy of purpose in Boston. On one hand, the players, coaching staff and manager want Bard to do well in whatever role he’s in; on the other, they might want to see him do badly enough as a starter that the front office has no choice but to sign off on the move that the on-field staff wants to make and switch him to the bullpen to insert veteran Aaron Cook into the starting rotation.

And don’t think Cook isn’t watching and waiting for his opportunity; if that means he’s silently hoping that Bard pitches poorly as a starter, so be it.

Cook pitched well in his first start for Pawtucket.

Bard’s work last night complicates matters and every game the Red Sox play—and every start Cook makes in Triple A—will be relevant to how the team moves forward.

All will try to twist the results in the direction they prefer and their agendas will lead them; but if Bard keeps pitching as he did last night, there’s not going to be an obvious answer. A decision will have to be made and they’re going to have to stick to it.

It’s not going to be simple one way or the other.

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  1. #1 by Mike Luna on April 11, 2012 - 8:40 pm

    There was a fair amount of talk amongst Rangers fans that Feliz would be back in the bullpen by May because Scott Feldman looked so good in Spring Training. Even some local media claimed that Feliz would likely fail as a starter this year and be trade bait next offseason.

    Thankfully, outside voices have no sway over people on the inside.

    The Rangers wanted Feliz to start and they put pieces in place to ensure that he would get a fair opportunity to do so. The Red Sox sort of had a plan, but they traded for Bailey, who was their first and last line of defense. This is the problems that arise when you leave yourself so little wiggle room in your budget.

    It’s not their fault that Bailey got hurt, but it’s just one more thing that the detractors can point to in Boston. Their franchise is such a mess nowadays.

    • #2 by admin on April 12, 2012 - 1:14 am

      The Rangers learned from their mistake last season when they tried Feliz in the rotation in the spring without a viable closer if he made the transition well. This year, they made the decision with finality and signed Nathan making it clear they had not intention of moving Feliz back to the bullpen.
      The Red Sox have been unlucky and they left themselves short-handed in the rotation and bullpen. I’m not buying that their payroll prohibited them from signing or trading for a more expensive starter or reliever—they wanted to do it more cheaply and it’s not working. The Mets didn’t pay for a closer and Frank Francisco has looked great so far. Them’s the breaks.

      • #3 by Mike Luna on April 13, 2012 - 4:56 am

        Of course, Fransisco’s the guy that Feliz replaced as the closer early in 2010. It’s funny how things come full circle.

        Whether or not you agree with it, Boston did everything cheap this offseason. They can’t possibly tell their rabid fans that they’re not going to be competitive, but they can’t do much of anything about their pitching staff. Guys are hurt and whoever’s still out there on the market (Oswalt comes to mind) isn’t really interested.

        They backed themselves into a corner with bloated contracts and even the mighty Red Sox are unable (or at least unwilling) to buy their way out of the problem.

        I mean, really, all that money for John Lackey?

      • #4 by admin on April 13, 2012 - 12:51 pm

        I’m not gonna disagree with the decision to close the vault. For how long could they continue tossing good money after bad to cover up their mistakes? They did it for so long and it didn’t work so they made the conscious decision to go in the opposite direction in terms of manager-personality and tried to patch it together as best they could.
        It’s early in the season, but what would concern me isn’t the losses, but the way they’re losing. They look awful in every conceivable sense on and off the field.

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