Bard Gets Joba’d…Sort Of

Say this for the Red Sox: Their handling of Daniel Bard has not followed the calamitous lead of the Yankees in their “development” of Joba Chamberlain as a starter.

Bard’s transition has been rocky, but he’s salvageable wherever they decide to put him long term.

They didn’t muck around with overt, public ambiguity of his role. They were reportedly debating on whether he should start or relieve and did in fact use him out of the bullpen as a set-up man for a game before sticking him back in the rotation but it didn’t degenerate into open organizational warfare between factions that wanted him as a starter versus those that wanted him as a reliever.

That happened with Chamberlain.

They didn’t limit him to some absurd set of floating rules designed to “protect” him but in reality contributed to his ruination.

That happened with Chamberlain.

They didn’t allow public demands and the media to interfere with what they were going to do.

That happened with Chamberlain.

Now the Red Sox have demoted Bard to try and straighten out his control problems.

On Sunday Bard had a horrific start against the Blue Jays in which he had no idea where the ball was going. He walked 6 and hit 2 in 1 2/3 innings. His 2 hit batsmen resulted in the Blue Jays’ Drew Hutchison hitting Kelly Shoppach and Kevin Youkilis.

The retaliation on the part of the Blue Jays was somewhat absurd. If Bard couldn’t throw the ball over the plate what made the Blue Jays think he’d have been able to hit them if he was aiming at them? How do you retaliate for the unintentional?

As for Bard, he’ll try to regain his release point and rebuild his confidence at Triple A. Contingent on the pending returns of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Aaron Cook, it’s possible that the Red Sox will put Bard back in the bullpen for the rest of the season.

I’ll guess that there was a debate as to what they should do with Bard with the same factions who didn’t want him to be a starter in the first place lobbying for him to move back to the bullpen on the big league level and the other side wanting him to continue starting in the minors. The problem with moving him back to the bullpen in the big leagues immediately as he’s having control problems is that it’s more damaging to have a reliever who can’t throw strikes—especially a set-up man—than it is to have him as a starter.

The Red Sox can’t make the mistake of taking Bard’s disappointment with the demotion and fan/media reaction into account when determining when to bring him back. They have to have a plan and adhere to it to try and get him back on track and then decide what role he’ll have at the big league level and then bring him back.

Anything other than that will be a repeat of what the Yankees did with Chamberlain and all they succeeded in doing was to take a Roger Clemens-level talent and turn him into a nondescript middle reliever whose reputation for shaking his fist after meaningless strikeouts and his leaguewide perception of being overrated are more prominent than anything he’s done on the mound.

Bard will be back with the Red Sox eventually. Whether it’s as a starter or reliever is the question and right now, I don’t think the Red Sox know. Nor does Bard.

He’ll be wondering at Pawtucket for the foreseeable future and it’s not the worst thing in the world.

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  1. #1 by Jason Chalifour on June 6, 2012 - 12:03 am

    Joba’s actual numbers as a starter are a lot better than most people realize. If they had just put him in the rotation and left him alone he would have been at worse a #2 provided he stayed healthy. You could say the same thing about Neftali Feliz or Aroldis Chapman. Good thing Justin Verlander was never called up to prop up the Tigers pen. He would’ve been such a dominant reliever he never would’ve had the chance to start either.

    That was the thinking with Bard. With his control problems seemingly behind him it was worth a shot. His problem is that he can’t repeate his delivery as a starter. Starting him in AAA gives him more of a chance to straighten out his delivery and gives the Red Sox an option if Dice-K craps out. Still think he ends up in the pen. To me the parallel is Ryan Madson in 2006.

    • #2 by admin on June 6, 2012 - 12:03 pm

      He had potential as a starter, but the developmental “rules” and that they used him out of the bullpen to such a dominant splash ruined any plans they had for him. What they should’ve done was said, “He’s a starter and that’s it.” Then let him pitch with reasonable constraints and not the ridiculous back-and-forth that ultimately played a large role in doing him in.
      Teams that have a plan have used their young pitchers out of the bullpen to start their careers and then shifted them into the rotation. Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan were believers in that and did so with Adam Wainwright and Dan Haren among others. Earl Weaver used to do it as well. If there’s a strategy and not a decision to see if it works for a brief time then change on the fly, it can be done.
      The Yankees didn’t do that and, judging by their treatment of the young pitchers they have now, haven’t learned anything at all from the experience.
      Bard can start; now they have to decide whether or not he should start.

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