FORT MYERS, Fla. – Speaking after throwing a short bullpen session at JetBlue Park Thursday morning, Daniel Bard talked about both his struggles of 2012 and the optimism he is carrying into ’13.
“It was good to get away and get a couple of months removed from everything and kind of look at it from a bigger picture perspective. I think that helps,” he said. “If you’re going to talk about last year you have to talk about the three years before that, as well. I’m not going to lie, it was a good motivating factor for the offseason. I never felt more motivated in the weight room, with the throwing, and everything. I think it was a really productive offseason.
“It was a pile of things. I think it kind of compounded. I think that’s the tough part, when you’re throwing every day, playing catch every day, pitching in a game every two or three days, it doesn’t matter where you are, Boston or Pawtucket, those problems seem to snowball and that’s kind of what happened to me. Two or three months without picking up the baseball, and just kind of hitting the reset button as far as throwing mechanics and everything, it all kind of comes back to you. Whether you’ve had a good season or a bad season I think you kind of relearn how to throw and when you pick up a ball in December your body comes what’s natural.”
Bard, who finished ’12 pitching in 17 games, including 10 starts, did admit that, in hindsight, a portion of the problems he ran into last season may have stemmed from simply doing too much.
The 27-year-old is now banking on taking advantage of the familiarity he shares with new manager John Farrell, who was with the righty through his first two seasons. During that stretch – from 2009-10 – Bard totaled a 2.61 ERA with a .197 batting average against in 122 games.
“With [former pitching coaches] Curt [Young] and with Mac [Bob McClure], I think those guys are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to pitching. They didn’t know me and they didn’t know my past,” Bard said. “With Mac in particular, I love Mac. I think he’s a great guy, and everything he said I seemed to agree with. At the same time, I think we just tried to tweak a few too many things. The way I pitched in the past is simple. It’s attacking hitters, not thinking really about how you’re getting there, have a couple mechanical keys you go off of and let it eat from there. I just got away from that last year.”
Another notable observation made by Bard was suggesting a respite from the ’12 season might have helped thwart many of the pitcher’s struggles. It was an idea, he pointed out, which wasn’t broached by him or the team.
“I think probably if they would have sent me home for two weeks and said, ‘Don’t pick up a ball in the middle of the season,’ that probably would have been the best thing,” he said. “But learn from it, move on. I’m pretty much done talking about last year. It is what it is and I’m ready to move on.”
He later added when asked about the idea of a two-week layoff, “I probably wouldn’t have liked the idea because you always think you’re one click away and you feel like you can battle through it. It was frustrating at times, very frustrating. But I can look back on it now and see the bigger picture and see the things that led the issues, I guess. It makes it a little easier to look back and almost from an outsiders perspective and think, ‘OK, I was trying to do this when I was trying to become a starter and it led to these things.’ I had a hard time breaking those bad habits. It’s a lot easier looking back then it is when you’re in the moment.”
The following is the rest of what Bard had to say:
ON A PLAN TO IMPROVE
“For me it was finding that arm-slot. Finding that feeling or release. Just playing catch that translates directly how you’re throwing on the mound. The first six weeks of throwing you don’t get off the mound. It’s just throwing, finding the target and building arm strength. I’ve been on the mound four or five times now and it’s felt like it’s translated pretty well.
“It kind of comes natural after not throwing for a couple of months. I’ve been throwing my whole life, and that’s the thing I battled with last year is finding that consistent slot, which leads to a consistent release, which leads to having better command. All I can say is that it feels good right now.”
ON WORKING WITH FARRELL
“It’s been great so far. He saw bits and pieces of me last year. He saw that one tough start I had in Toronto first-hand. But the majority of pitches he has seen me throw was when I was pretty locked in for two years with him. He knows when I’m doing things right. He knows what that looks like. It was like last year, the only guy who really knew me was Tuck so he was the only guy I could really count on and say, ‘Does this look like the old me?’ Everyone else had to just go off of results. It’s nice having John here to be a set of eyes who have known me for a long time.”
ON BEING IN A BETTER FRAME OF MIND THAN LAST YEAR
“I think that’s a given.”
ON MEETING UP WITH FARRELL IN THE OFFSEASON
“I think the first couple were him trying to get a feel for where I was at, mentally, physically, how I was feeling. Once he kind of got that. He came down, watched me throw in Mississippi and I think he saw things were going in the right direction. He saw how good I felt. You talk to any pitcher and it’s all about feel. You can kind of see when a pitcher has feel versus when he doesn’t. I think once you realize that feel is coming back it’s a tweak here, and a tweak there. But I think it’s become a lot more simple.”
ON MAKING THE TEAM
“I’m not too worried about it. I know that if I come in here and take care of business and throw the ball the way I’m capable of it, a role or a spot is going to make itself available.”
ON STARTING VS. RELIEVING
“I don’t think I was doing it long enough to really say it didn’t work. I was an average starter for 10 starts or so and had one really bad one at a bad time when they needed to make a spot for a guy coming off the DL. It is what it is, and that’s how it worked out. I’m back in a role I think I’m comfortable with, throwing short stints out of the pen. That fits my mentality when I’m at my best. That probably fits it the best.”
ON THROWING MORE THAN JUST FASTBALL, SLIDER
“Changeup still feels good. It’s all a matter of how much I can introduce it in a game. Out of the pen, it’s been a tougher pitch to rely on because it’s that in-between speed. It feels good throwing out here.”