The Red Sox made a bit of a surprise move following Tuesday's 13-0 loss to the Athletics, notifying reliever Daniel Bard that they will be calling him up from AA Portland on Wednesday. Knuckleballer Steven Wright, who gave up 5 earned runs in 3.2 innings of mop-up work in his major league debut, was optioned to AAA Pawtucket to make room for Bard.
Bard, 27, has made seven relief appearances for the Seadogs this season, posting a 0-1 record and 4.50 ERA in eight innings of work. The righty was expected to spend a good portion of the season in the minors in an attempt to re-discover the command and confidence that enabled him to be a dominant force in the Red Sox bullpen from 2009 to 2011, but is getting the call earlier than expected to fill a roster need for the big league club. With John Lackey likely returning from injury this weekend, Bard's stay in Boston will almost definitely be short-lived, and he will end up either back with Portland or AAA Pawtucket once the stint is completed.
Bard has been solid in his last few outings, not allowing a run since April 9th against Reading and only scattering five hits in six innings since that outing. According to Seadogs beat reporters, he has been consistenly throwing strikes, and his fastball is in the 94-95 mph range. While a small sample size of success against Double-A lineups is not always a clear indicator of major league success, signs point towards Bard recovering his confidence and command after a year of struggles at both the major league and Triple-A levels.
After moving to the rotation at the beginning of the 2012 season, Bard struggled mightily in ten starts for the Sox before being demoted to AAA Pawtucket on June 6th. He then spent more than three months with the PawSox, posting a 3-2 record and 7.03 ERA in 32 innings of work, before being called back up to Boston in September. In 17 total appearances in the majors in 2012, Bard posted a 5-6 record and 6.22 ERA in 59.1 innings of work, and was considered one of the major disasters of the team's 69-93 season.
Bard competed for a major league spot throughout spring training, but ultimately lost to Clayton Mortensen after allowing six earned runs in just eight innings of work (6.75 ERA). After receiving the news on Tuesday night, Bard seemed relieved and explained his approach so far this season.
"Just been simplifying everything," Bard told Kevin Thomas of the Portland Press Herald, who first broke the story of his call-up. "I think I made some good strides through spring training and this was a chance to build on what we did."
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