Bard takes a step back in loss to Blue Jays

Bard takes a step back in loss to Blue Jays

Bard takes a step back in loss to Blue Jays
TORONTO -- If anything became clear from Daniel Bard's wild Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre, it's that the righty has reached a crisis point in his transition from reliever to starter.

And the question after a 5-1 loss to the Blue Jays was this: How will Bard respond to the adversity that has come his way?

"I don't know," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's hard. It depends on the individual."

To say Bard had trouble with his command would be an understatement. It got to the point where the safety of Blue Jays hitters was in question.

Over 1 2/3 innings, Bard gave up five runs, six walks and hit two batters. The only hit he gave up was damaging -- a three-run homer off the bat of Jose Bautista in the first.

In the immediate aftermath of the game, even Bard couldn't say for sure if it would be best to make his next scheduled start on Saturday against the Nationals, or if he might be better taking some kind of break.

"It's too soon right now to really answer that question," said Bard.

Valentine will take the proper course of time before making an evaluation.

"I'll think about it a while," Valentine said. "I have some time. Regretfully, it's going to have to take up an off-day [on Monday], but I'll think about it a while."

The second batter Bard hit -- Edwin Encarnacion -- had to leave the game with a right hand injury. That was the last of Bard's 55 pitches. Valentine really had no choice but to remove his starter.

"With the second hit batter, he couldn't throw the fastball to the outside part of the plate, and they had right-handed hitters coming up. The last thing I wanted to do was see anyone else get hurt," Valentine said.

Though Bard was hardly spectacular in his last two starts, he seemed to be building at least a little momentum, going 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA.

Bard was particularly enthused by the outing that preceded Sunday, as he felt he at last found a release point that he could work with.

But it all unraveled for a pitcher who is now 5-6 with a 5.24 ERA.

"A little surprising," said Bard. "I really thought I had found something with my delivery going into that last one. I saw some very improved results. It wasn't perfect, but I felt really good about how I threw the ball. I tried to carry those same things into today. I just didn't repeat it as well."

Not only is Bard questioning how he pitched Sunday, but he has doubts about steps during the process of transitioning to the new role.

"If anything, it's that I allowed something to happen when I switched roles. It's that maybe we tried to turn me into a starter rather than just taking the same pitcher I was out of the 'pen and moving that guy to the rotation," said Bard. "That's probably what should have been done. It's partially my fault. It's all my fault. It's a matter of getting back to what I had success doing in the past."

The Red Sox got a superb effort from their bullpen to keep the game competitive. Franklin Morales reeled off 4 1/3 shutout innings in the longest relief outing of his career. Scott Atchison and Rich Hill each did the job in one-inning stints.

"Franklin saved the day so we didn't have to abuse the bullpen, I'll guarantee you that," said Valentine. "That was my main concern there. He and Atch and Rich did a fine job. [Our] hitters really never got into a rhythm or good flow. Maybe standing out there for those two innings might have taken a little something out of them, I'm not sure."

Blue Jays starter Drew Hutchison turned in a strong effort to contain the Sox. Kelly Shoppach did get Boston on the board with a solo homer to right-center in the fifth.

In the sixth, things got heated when Hutchison drilled Kevin Youkilis with a pitch in the left shoulder that then appeared to glance off the left side of his helmet. Youkilis angrily pointed to his waist, perhaps noting where Hutchison should have been aiming. Neither bench emptied.

"I can't say what that conversation was like," said Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia. "On the field, sometimes hot heads come about, and I know if there is one thing, I'm not going to allow or accept anyone screaming at anyone on my team, and for that matter a pitcher. It is what it is -- we definitely weren't trying to hit him in that situation."

As the innings ticked away, Bard spent time in the clubhouse, reviewing video of when he was a dominant relief pitcher.

"I had plenty of time after I came out of the game, so I was watching some video from the last couple of years and looking at what I might be doing different," Bard said. "The ability to repeat has been there in the past. The nice thing about watching that and having that footage to look back at is that it's right there. There's video evidence that I've done this thousands of times before. We'll dig into that a little more and hopefully come up with something more concrete in a few days."

Ian Browne is a reporter for 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.