FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Daniel Bard could tell something was different when he was warming up in the bullpen before Thursday's relief outing against the Twins. The ball was coming out of his hand just right and the catcher was hardly moving his glove.
For the right-hander, that was a nice feeling -- one that had been absent over the last year as Bard had constantly been battling to recapture the mechanics and results that made him one of the game's best relievers.
Once Bard got into the game, the warm-ups carried right over. He pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning during Boston's 12-5 victory, retiring all three batters on strikeouts.
"It's something that's a feel that every pitcher knows what I'm talking about, when the ball is just coming out true," Bard said. "I was as locked in in the bullpen warming up as I've been in a long time. The catcher wasn't moving his glove a whole lot. It's always nice to carry that into the game."
And the velocity -- which had trailed off at times last year -- was back in the mid to upper 90s.
"I don't know what my velocity was, but it felt as good as it's felt in a long time coming out," Bard said. "There was finish on the ball. It had some late life to it. [I got] some late swings. It's a good feeling to get those reactions."
Bard's pitching life seemed to be turned upside down since last spring, when he tried to transition himself into a starter and completely lost himself.
The climb back this spring has been gradual. Bard had a clean outing against Northeastern University and also against the Rays, but he stayed away from games for a nine-day span that preceded Thursday's outing. The reason? Manager John Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves wanted him to work on the stride length in his delivery.
"Very encouraging," Farrell said. "He's taken the work that he's done on the side and in the [simulated] game into today. He stayed behind a lot of fastballs. There was improved command, improved velocity. It was a very good day for him."
Now Bard has something positive to build on entering his next outing, which will probably be in a couple of days.
"That's what Spring Training is all about," Bard said. "Not only getting ready, but getting mentally ready. It's nice to have some of these to get the confidence rolling and build on it every time out."