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Bard glad to switch in batter's box

Bard glad to switch sides in batter's box

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Josh Bard won't go as far to say that he's completely comfortable with switch-hitting, though it's something the Padres catcher says he's been doing the past 15 years.

That might have something to do with Bard's modest beginnings as a switch-hitter, when his older brother Mike persuaded the natural right-handed hitter to also hit from the left side.

The results weren't pretty, as Bard -- then a 13-year-old eighth-grader in Colorado -- had more than his share of struggles.

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"I was 0-for-53," Bard said of hitting left-handed while insisting he wasn't exaggerating his woeful statistics. "I used to come home crying. But we kept working at it and then, one day, it just sort of clicked."

It's a good thing for the Padres that it did, as Bard will be the Padres' Opening Day starter at catcher and, because he's become more than serviceable as a left-handed hitter, Bard figures to get the majority of at-bats there this season regardless of what arm the pitcher is using.

Bard took a .417 batting average with two home runs into Tuesday's night game against the Angels at the Peoria Sports Complex, with several of those hits coming against left-handed pitchers, something Bard considers a blessing.

"I feel pretty fortunate because I feel like we've seen a lot of lefties this spring, which is unusual," Bard said. "That's been good to get some more right-handed at-bats this spring. That's helped me stay sharp."

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So has a meticulous daily routine that has Bard working with Padres hitting coach Merv Rettenmund, a lengthy session in the batting cage where he hits equal amounts from each side of the plate and does video study of his swing.

"The biggest thing is I have the same routine every day," Bard said.

Statistically, Bard showed proficiency last season, hitting .333 from each side of the plate. Most of his power (six of his nine home runs) came from the left side, though he certainly hit enough from the right side to avoid a platoon situation.

"I feel like I'm narrowing it," Bard said. "I will get asked that all the time, and my answer is that it comes and goes. I can feel really good right-handed, and then three weeks later you feel [bad] right-handed and really good left-handed."

Again, it's a work in progress, though it's a challenge Bard is willing to tackle each day.

"My goal in starting out the season is to be consistent on both sides of the plate," Bard said. "I take it as an exciting challenge to come to the park each day and try to get better. I get kind of antsy at the park, so it's nice to come to the park and work on two things."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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