Bard takes another positive step forward

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- When you're coming off a year like Daniel Bard had in 2012, every little step forward is good news. Bard didn't have a perfect outing in his Grapefruit League debut on Monday, but there was plenty to find encouraging.

Bard and catcher David Ross were pleased with the improvement in Bard's fastball command. The right-hander's slider had sharp bite, staying down in the strike zone. And while his mechanics aren't completely in order, Bard believes he's very close. After a year when almost nothing went right, that adds up to a good day at the ballpark.

"Overall I would say it was better," Bard said. "It's still just [about] working hard to get on top of every pitch. ... For the most part, mechanics feel good. I think just that one little thing, getting on top of the ball and driving down through the zone, is key for me."

Bard faced three batters in the fifth inning of a 6-3 loss to the Rays. He struck out Hak-Ju Lee, finishing the shortstop off with a nasty slider. He walked Leslie Anderson, and Sean Rodriguez lined into a double play to end the inning. Bard counted the outing as an improvement over his previous appearance, in a pre-Grapefruit exhibition against Northeastern University.

"There were a couple times we talked, and he said he felt like he was getting under the ball a little bit, but I thought he looked really [good]," Ross said. "Today was definitely a better fastball command day."

Matthew Leach is a writer for Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.