The Boston Red Sox demoted pitcher Daniel Bard to Triple-A Pawtucket today.
I admit I am bit surprised by the move. Nevertheless, I saw his last start on Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays where he walked six batters over an inning and two thirds while surrendering five runs in a 5-1 loss. He also plunked Yunel Escobar and Edwin Encarnacion. Both are lucky they didn't have broken bones.
Bard spent his first three seasons with the Sox in the bullpen but was moved to the starting rotation prior to this season. So far in 2012, Bard is 5-6 with a 5.24 ERA and has walked 37 batters while striking out 34. Bard also leads the AL with eight hit batsmen. Bard's velocity is also down dramatically. Out of the bullpen he threw around 97 MPH but now he is lucky to top 92 MPH. For a power pitcher, 5 MPH can make all the difference in the world.
I saw Bard pitch on Patriot's Day against the Tampa Bay Rays. He pitched well until Bobby Valentine left him in too long much to consternation of Red Sox Nation.
Two things are unclear. First, whether Bard will remain a starter or if he will go back to the bullpen. Second, who will take place Bard's place in the rotation? With the emergence of rookie Will Middlebrooks at third, will the Sox deal Kevin Youkilis for a veteran starting pitcher like Kevin Millwood, Bruce Chen or Carl Pavano?
Yet all things considered, things are going much better for the Sox than they were a month ago. Their low point came on May 10th after the Josh Beckett post-golf outing debacle. After that game, the Sox were 12-19 and 7½ games back of the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East. Since then, they've gone 16-7. While the Sox are tied with the Jays in last place in the division, they are only three games back of the Rays. In a week from now, the standings could easily be reversed.
The Sox begin a three game series tonight at Fenway Park against the Orioles before embarking on interleague play starting Friday night against the Washington Nationals.