Six seasons have elapsed since Daniel Bard threw his last pitch in a Major League game, but the 34-year-old righty threw in front of scouts recently and is hoping to make a comeback, Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe reports (via Twitter).
Bard, for those who don’t recall or have only begun following baseball in recent seasons, at one point looked to be a high-end closer in the making. Selected with the 28th overall pick in 2006, Bard debuted for the Red Sox in 2009 and went on to post a 2.88 ERA with 9.7 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9 and 0.7 HR/9 in his first 197 innings at the MLB level. Were it not for Jonathan Papelbon’s presence in the Boston bullpen, he’d surely have been afforded more save opportunities in the early stages of his career.
The 2012 season was an ugly one for Bard, however, as he was blown up for a 6.22 ERA through 59 1/3 innings. A sudden deterioration of his ability to locate the ball was the chief culprit, as Bard averaged 6.5 BB/9 and hit eight batters in 59 1/3 frames that season. Bard missed more than two months of the 2013 season with an abdominal strain and only tossed one inning in the Majors plus another 15 1/3 frames in the minors; he walked 27 batters in that time.
Winter ball in the 2013-14 offseason and a brief stint with the Rangers in 2014 only confirmed that Bard’s control had completely evaporated. Call it the Yips, Steve Blass disease or whatever moniker you prefer — Bard walked 18 of the 31 hitters he faced between the Puerto Rican Winter League and his quick run with the Rangers’ Class-A club. He embarked on comeback attempts with the Cardinals and Mets in 2016-17 but was met with similarly disheartening results.
Since calling it quits before the 2018 season, Bard has been working in as a “minor league player mentor” with the D-backs organization, where GM Mike Hazen and assistant GMs Amiel Sawdaye and Jared Porter know him well from their time in the Red Sox’ front office. Expectations on another comeback attempt should be measured, of course, given the long layoff and Bard’s prior, unsuccessful attempts. Still, it’s hard not to root for the 34-year-old. A successful renaissance after this much time off the radar would make for a wonderful story to follow and surefire Comeback Player of the Year favorite.