BOSTON -- In a roster move that would have been considered unfathomable a couple of years ago, the Red Sox designated former ace setup man Daniel Bard for assignment on Sunday, possibly ending the right-hander's association with the team that drafted him in 2006.
Upon being promoted to the Major Leagues in May of 2009, Bard quickly became a key bullpen member in Boston under manager Terry Francona.
In '10 and '11, he was an elite setup man for Jonathan Papelbon.
Bard first started to struggle in the final month of '11, when the Red Sox had their historic September collapse. But things truly went downhill last season, when in conjunction with the club, he decided to try his hand at starting pitching. That experiment failed to the point where Bard was back in the Minors by June of last season, and he had spent the bulk of his time there until Sunday's roster move.
If Bard is unclaimed by another team over the next 48 hours, he could remain property of the Red Sox, but he would no longer be part of the 40-man roster.
"If he's still in the organization, which we would hope that would be the case, unless some team either claims or works out a trade for him, we haven't turned our back on him and yet we needed a roster spot and we're hopeful we can get Daniel back on track to the pitcher that he was here at the big league level -- which was a dominant one," said Red Sox manager John Farrell.
When Bard first came to the Major Leagues, Farrell was his pitching coach until leaving to become the manager of the Blue Jays in '11.
"And the weapon that he emerged as, and the way [former Sox manager Terry Francona] had the flexibility to use him in that seventh or eighth inning, in many ways he had the tougher inning more so than the closer many, many nights," Farrell said. "To have that kind of power and that kind of ease in which he threw, and the breaking ball he had in addition to the 98 to 101 [mph] or whatever it was, yeah, for two years, he was as good as there was in the game."
Farrell was reunited with Bard this spring. In fact, Bard was one of the final roster cuts of Spring Training.
"Well there was a combination of delivery issues that were being ironed out and certainly confidence issues," Farrell said. "That's where the question is which comes first? We felt like performance was going to lead to confidence.
"But I thought in Spring Training, there were some outings that were not far off to where he was previous, whether it was a year or two prior, and felt like as he was building a little momentum in Spring Training, felt like there was still one step yet left to make with him in terms of just the power and the consistency to it. And it looked like he was on his way. Unfortunately it didn't happen."