The doubt was somewhat warranted in spring training as the former setup reliever allowed 18 runs and 16 walks through 24 2/3 innings--including a relief appearance in which he allowed 7 ER in 2 2/3 innings--but Bobby Valentine and Ben Cherington saw enough progression to extend the experiment into the regular season.
After Friday's defeat of the White Sox, Ben Cherington would probably love to tell Bobby V--who openly disagreed with him regarding Bard in the rotation--"I told ya so!"
Starting his third game of the season--after being skipped due to a rainout against the Yankees--It would have been understandable if their was a bit of rust on Bard's powerful right arm, but if their was it got left in the Red Sox bullpen at U.S. Cellular Field.
Instead of using the extended rest, with just a relief appearance mixed in as an excuse, Bard went out and turned in his best start to date--including spring training. He allowed just 6H, 3R, 2 ER, 1BB, 6K in 7 IP, with the most impressive number in that line being the 1BB that he allowed, following a start in which he allowed 7 in 6 2/3 IP.
There were mistakes in the outing, such as the 3-0 fastball that Paul Konerko planted in the bullpen and the change up to A.J. Pierzynksi for an RBI double in the first inning but Bard's ability to look past those mistakes and turn in a stellar outing far overshadowed them.
Up until now there has been continuous talk of a return to the bullpen for the star reliever but last nights start all but eliminated that talk.
With Rich Hill's return and Aaron Cook in line for a call up by Tuesday (when his opt-out clause takes effect) there is plenty of reason for optimism on a pitching staff that has seen nothing of the like to this point. The Red Sox could try Aaron Cook in a relief role or shuffle elsewhere but now is not the time to disturb Daniel Bard.
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