Bard Faces Tough Test

FORT MYERS, Fla.’"The Red Sox haven’™t had much time to get to know Daniel Bard, but they’™ve apparently seen enough to send the 28th overall pick in 2006 straight to high Class A.

Bard, who didn’™t sign until September, is still working with tinkering his delivery some, specifically with the height and angle of his leg kick and his speed to the plate from the windup. But his loose, easy arm action’"not to mention the fact that he’™s an advanced college pitcher–can make up for a lot in a hurry.

“I think we’™re still trying to get a feel for exactly what level his secondary stuff is at,” Red Sox farm director Mike Hazen said. “That’™s based on the fact that we haven’™t seen him versus professional competition except for instructional league and a couple games again in spring training.

“Where’™s the development of the changeup? How much work does it need? . . . You know, we’™ve encouraged him what percentage we’™d like to see him use it. And then there’™s the development of his breaking ball. Everybody in the world knows this guy throws 97 (mph). We’™re just trying to get beyond that right now.”

But Bard thinks as his mechanics become sharper and more defined, the secondary stuff will undoubtedly get to where he’™d like them to be.

“It’™s been improving quickly as I tinker with my delivery just a little bit (secondary pitches),” the 21-year-old righthander said. “I’™m just trying to get my whole body a little more under control, which will allow me to repeat it easier’"and that’™s going to help command of everything.”

The other learning curve comes as Bard adjusts to the routine of pitching in a five-man rotation’"he’™s essentially going to break camp having been on a five-day cycle for a little over two weeks.

And then there is the Lancaster factor.

Bard will leave the cozy Florida parks soon, moving to an environment that is among the minors’ worst for guys who make their living on the mound: high Class A Lancaster’™s Clear Channel Stadium and the rest of the California League.

“He’™s a very advanced college pitcher and he needs to be in an environment where he’™s going to be challenged,” Hazen said. “He’™s not going to be able to get by with throwing a 96 mph fastball and getting guys to swing at it. He needs to continue to learn the importance of having the ability to locate, and develop two secondary pitches with command.

“So to be challenged while he’™s doing that, we feel like that’™s going to happen in Lancaster.”

As for Bard, he’™s approaching his first pro assignment with the guile and savvy of a 10-year veteran: “I know it’™s a hitter’™s park, but I’™m not going to change the way I pitch,” Bard said. “I always throw down in the zone and I’™m not going to change that. Hopefully I’™ll get a lot of ground balls.

“I need to be able to just pound the zone with my fastball, break some bats and improve my secondary pitches. I know I’™m not blowing anything by these guys, believe me . . . Just have to miss the barrel as much as possible.”