FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s the nature of the beast. Because his season went so far off the rails last year, every throwing session that Daniel Bard has this spring will face a higher degree of scrutiny than that of virtually every one of his teammates. Such was the case on Saturday, when the right-hander threw his first live batting practice session of the spring, with minor leaguers Jeremy Hazelbaker and Jonathan Diaz stepping in the cage with Bard on the mound.
One obvious thing stood out: Bard was hitting the glove repeatedly. His fastball was down, and regularly popped the mitt of catcher Dan Butler. Butler also worked with Bard a year ago in Triple-A Pawtucket, so his take on the session was noteworthy.
“He looked confident out there. He was able to make some quick adjustments,” said Butler. “His fastball command was a lot better. He’s got a lot better feel for it. And change up looks good, slider looks good. He’s very consistent out there with his delivery. That’s the main thing with him.
“There’s definitely some adjustment that’s being made there [since last year]. He looks like he’s able to do that now. It looks a lot better.”
That early impression — which was in line with reports of Bard’s early bullpen sessions — was shared by manager John Farrell and GM Ben Cherington. At the same time, while encouraged, Cherington also wanted to downplay the idea of getting too caught up in how Bard looks in any single outing, preferring to be more mindful of the goal of preparing for the season rather than potentially riding a daily roller coaster based on individual bullpen sessions.
“One of the things we’ve talked with Daniel about, let’s not make this a story everyday,” said Cherington. “He’s a healthy pitcher getting ready for the season. I understand what happened last year, that there will be interest, but like a lot of other guys, he’s getting ready for the season and he’s back in a role that should be comfortable to him, working on things. … [He is] another very talented arm back there. He’s going through his progression and getting ready for games.”
The twin messages — that Bard looked good, but that it’s pointless to jump to any conclusions — was reiterated by Farrell.
“Again, it’s [live batting practice]. I don’t want to over-analyze it too much,” said Farrell. “The one point of emphasis he is trying to get done is not to guide the ball. Stay agressive, even in the early BP and bullpen sessions, and he’s doing just that.
“I think we want to be careful not to jump too early here,” Farrell continued. “This is the third time he’s been on the mound since we’ve opened up camp. We’ll get a better read once we get into games and you get into the game-speed and the adrenaline matched to it. That’s more of an accurate read at that point.”