By Gordon Edes
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Hey Jerry, let me give you a brief history on why I am so confident that Daniel Bard of the Red Sox will succeed in his transition from reliever to starter, and even more so than your pick to click, Neftali Feliz of the Rangers.
We don’t have to go back far, just 10 years, in fact, when I saw the Red Sox take another guy out of the bullpen — a guy who had failed miserably earlier in his career as a starter — and put him in the rotation. You might have heard of him, because he won 21 games that season and is still going strong at age 38.
His name? Derek Lowe, and even though Lowe initially had gone the route projected for Bard — from setup man to closer, saving 42 games for the Sox in the 2000 season when they lost Tom Gordon — he called himself a “frustrated starter.” Bard has not used that exact phrase, but make no mistake, the Red Sox didn’t sell him on making the switch, he sold them. He’s all-in on becoming a starter, and this spring has shown manager Bobby Valentine that his commitment extends to things like fielding his position — he led his teammates in the pitcher’s fielding practice competition — and holding on runners.
Yes, Bard had a horrendous first season in the minor leagues as a starter, when he couldn’t find the plate, but that’s a little like pointing at the 56 errors Derek Jeter made as a 19-year-old as a barometer of what kind of shortstop he would be. The important thing is, Bard figured it out, got his confidence back, and is supremely confident about this switch to starter.
Just Tuesday, he said this: “I’m not going to guarantee any great success, but I’m not going to rule it out, either. I can tell you that in my mind, I can’t see any reason why I can’t go out and be as good as anybody on this staff, and we have some really good pitchers.”
It can’t hurt that Bard has a pitching coach, Bob McClure, who made a similar transition when he was pitching for the Milwaukee Bewers. Sure, we can’t say for sure how Bard — or Feliz — will do now that they have to go through a lineup three times instead of facing a hitter just once, but I don’t see Bard as a one-trick pony. His four-seamer and slider remain his dominant pitches, but he has a lot of confidence in his two-seamer, which will get him some quick outs, and the changeup is coming. I think Bard, a couple of years older and having experienced failure along the way, might be better equipped to deal with adversity, too, than Feliz.
Hey, “Feliz” means “happy” in Spanish. “Bard” means poet, especially the teller of great deeds. I like my guy’s chances of living up to his name.
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