There was little reason to think moving Daniel Bard to the rotation would work out the way it has. Traditionally, pitchers are moved to the bullpen because they aren’t good enough to be starting pitchers. Either they don’t have a deep enough repertoire, have trouble with batters from a particular side of the plate, don’t have the stamina to go deep into games, have poor mechanics that are difficult to repeat or put added stress on the arm, or just can’t throw enough strikes to go deep into a game.
Bard appeared to have the three-pitch mix to be an above average starting pitcher. He also appeared to have put his control problems behind him. What he has been unable to do is repeat his delivery, which has caused his control to escape him, as it did yesterday. During Sunday’s game, he was throwing slider after slider in the second inning as he searched for his release point to no avail.
Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe tweeted that the Red Sox risked “Joba-ing” Bard if they didn’t put him back in the bullpen. A better comparison may be former Phillies closer Ryan Madson as they have somewhat similar deep repertoires and makeup. Madson came up to the majors and was placed in the bullpen despite the fact that he was a starting pitcher in the minors. In 2006, he was finally given a chance in the starting rotation and had a poor season before going back to the pen for good.
Giving Bard a shot in the rotation was a good idea. A disturbing trend in recent years has been Major League teams calling up starting pitching prospects to prop up their bullpens. Once the young starters have success in the easier role of pitching out of the bullpen, they end up never getting out. This happened to Joba Chamberlain, whose numbers as a starter are better than you would think. It almost happened to Neftali Feliz and it looks like it is going to happen to Aroldis Chapman. It was absolutely the right thing to see if Bard could give the club 170-200 innings, as opposed to 70. Even an average starter is almost always worth much more than a reliever.
Luckily, Daisuke Matsuzaka is healthy enough to pitch should the Red Sox pull the plug. Optioning Bard to Pawtucket to be straightened out at the AAA level would be the smart move. His control was so awful on Sunday, they can’t expect merely moving him back to the bullpen will be a cure-all.