PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — There has been much discussion about Daniel Bard‘s velocity – or lack thereof – on his fastball. The 98 and 99 MPH readings that were commonplace in the spring of 2009 and ’10 are not there.
But the right-hander isn’t worried.
He threw mostly fastballs to the Tampa Bay Rays in the fifth inning Monday, his only inning of work, and those fastballs ranged mostly between 92-94 MPH, with a couple topping out at 95.
“I think overall, I would say it was better,” Bard said. “I’m just still working hard to get on top of every pitch. Still have a little bit of a tendency a little rotational and I think that’s where you see some of those errant ones. For the most part, mechanics feel good. Just that one little thing, keeping my hand on top of the ball and driving down through the zone is key for me.
“It’s a small thing that takes a lot of reps to get it right. I had a some bad habits built up from last year. We’ve corrected most of them and that’s just the one thing we’re working on. I feel good. I feel like I can finally trust myself with throwing the ball where I want to and just attacking guys.”
Bard lost his fastball when the Red Sox moved him to the rotation and he started pitching with the mentality of conserving energy and pitches. Now back in the bullpen, Bard believes that once the mechanics are fixed, his upper-90s fastball will return.
“I think so. I think there’s probably three or four miles an hour just in having a little better finish on top of the ball, just backspinning the ball,” Bard said after Monday’s outing. “It’s close. I’m doing on certain pitches and not others. When that last bit of mechanics becomes consistent, I feel good about where it’s headed.”
Mechanics and mentality are two things Pedro Martinez has been watching and working on with Bard. The results are not consistently there but Bard believes they will be.
One pitch that is already game-ready is his slider.
Bard struck out Hak-Ju Lee on a slider down and in before hitting Leslie Anderson and walking Luke Scott. He got a big break when Sean Rodriguez lined into a inning-ending double play at third base. One inning, no hits, no runs, one walk, one strikeout and one hit batter.
Bard admitted after the game that he’s simplified his slider, throwing just one instead of three variations, at least to start training camp.
“I think a few months away from baseball gives you a fresh mindset and a little broader point of view to look back on last season and look forward to a new season, knowing the ability is still all there. I feel good.
“[The slider] felt good. That pitch has been there for me since I started throwing this year, just had a good feel for the spin. That’s not always there this early. That’s nice. You could say that’s been my most effective pitch for a couple of years there as far as striking guys out. It’s good to know it’s there.”
Even though it was just one batter – the leadoff batter in the fifth – Bard feels like he’s getting the mentality of being able to put hitters away.
“That’s huge, just to get out there and feel like I’m used to feeling on the mound. It’s a good feeling,” Bard said. “I used the word ‘feel’ a lot right there but that’s kind of what it’s all about, is having that feel out there. I’m confident right now. I feel like I can get anybody out in the box. It’s just that little bit of consistency but the mentality and focus has definitely been good.”
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