FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Just by the nature of Daniel Bard's goal of moving from the bullpen to the rotation, he is pretty much going to reach a milestone each time he pitches this Spring Training.
Saturday marked the first time he reeled off three innings in a game since 2007, when he was a down-on-his-luck starter just trying to survive in the Minor Leagues.
This time the occasion was far more satisfying. Bard not only went three innings, he prospered, holding the Rays to two hits and no runs in a 5-0 win. He fired 49 pitches, 30 for strikes.
"I really didn't feel much different," Bard said. "My body feels good. I felt like I had more pitches in me again. Hopefully, that keeps up. I'm sure I'll hit some kind of ceiling and start to feel the fatigue, but it was good."
Unlike his first Grapefruit League start earlier this week, Bard incorporated a third pitch into his mix -- the changeup. In fact, he threw a bunch of them.
"It was probably around 12 or so," he said. "I didn't count, but I know that was something we talked about before the outing, using that pitch and using it in some different counts. I only threw a few sliders. For the most part, that was my offspeed pitch today."
Though the general perception is that Bard will win the fourth spot in the rotation, with the fifth spot the only one up for grabs, it is still a competition in his mind.
"I know I have a spot on the team, but my role's up in the air," he said. "I do feel like I have things to prove. That definitely gives me the motivation and tells me that these games mean something, because they do mean something to me."
And they mean something to those who are monitoring him as well.
"He doesn't have to prove anything," said pitching coach Bob McClure. "Basically, what I'd like to see is the ability to repeat his delivery. He doesn't have to be perfect, because his stuff is plus. [He needs] the ability to throw his offspeed in any count. The advancement of his changeup could be a huge pitch for him. There's a lot of things. It's not really proof. It's, 'Is he there yet?' He's going to get enough starts in Spring Training to see if he's ready for that."