Bard slotted as starter, but closing an option

Bard slotted as starter, but closing an option

Bard slotted as starter, but closing an option
BOSTON -- When Spring Training starts, Red Sox right-hander Daniel Bard will be a starting pitcher. However, the club is keeping the option open of making Bard the closer for the regular season if that's where he is needed most.

Speaking at the Christmas at Fenway event on Saturday, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine enlightened fans about his plans for Bard.

"Daniel [said], as we would hope he would say, 'Hey, whatever's best for the team. I'm going to go into Spring Training saying, Whatever's best for the team.' But he's going to get innings as a starter would in Spring Training," Valentine said.

"He's going to be penciled in to be one of those guys who works going from his bullpen to pitching two innings to pitching four innings to pitching six innings."

The team will evaluate how Bard looks in that role, and also how the righty best fits into Boston's 2012 roster.

"Whenever we get to that plateau, with the pitching coach I'll hopefully have by my side soon, and all the members of the staff and front office ... we'll have to make a determination after that 18-20 inning mark as to where he will be during the season," Valentine said. "I told him to prepare to be a starter and if that, in fact, does not happen to be ready and willing to be our closer."

The Red Sox have been looking to give Bard -- a setup man in his first three seasons -- a role that comes with more responsibility. There is certainly that chance for 2012, with closer Jonathan Papelbon having signed with the Phillies and perhaps as many as two vacancies in the starting rotation.

In a text message to MLB.com last week, Bard expressed a willingness to help the Red Sox in any way possible.

"I did make it very clear to them I have no reservations about moving to the rotation," Bard said. "I told them I'd take any role they choose to give me and run with it, whether it's starting or closing."

Bard's flexibility has enabled general manager Ben Cherington to be a little more open-minded this winter as he explores the pitching market.

The Red Sox could trade for a closer like Andrew Bailey or sign someone like Ryan Madson, but if they don't, Bard could potentially pitch the ninth inning.

"Daniel will prepare for camp as a starter, and we are confident he can succeed in that role," said Cherington. "Daniel is also prepared to pitch in whatever role helps us win the most games. We are fortunate to have someone with Daniel's ability and maturity on our team, and he will be a big part of our success in 2012."

Back in 2007, Papelbon went to camp as a starter but when no closer emerged, he expressed a willingness to move back to that role.

It remains to be seen how the situation will play out with Bard.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.