Right-hander Luke Bard has agreed to a deal with the Rays, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). The team hasn’t announced the move, but Bard is in the clubhouse and has a locker set up. Rays broadcaster Neil Solondz adds that it’s a minor league contract for Bard, a client of ISE Baseball.
Bard, 31, is a former supplemental first-round pick (No. 42 by the Twins in 2012) who made his big league debut with the Angels back in 2018. He spent parts of the 2018-20 seasons in the Majors with the Halos, pitching to a combined 5.05 ERA with a 21.8% strikeout rate, a 6.5% walk rate and a 33.3% ground-ball rate in 46 appearances. Three of those were technically “starts,” though Bard served as an opener in each.
The younger brother of Rockies righty Daniel Bard, Luke was with the Angels again for the 2021 season but did not pitch either in the big leagues or in the minors. The younger Bard brother was slowed last spring by a hip injury that eventually required surgery and an eight-month recovery period.
Bard hasn’t had much success in the Majors, and his three Triple-A seasons have produced a 5.04 ERA that’s a near-identical match with his big league ERA. That said, he’s a fairly unsurprising Rays target all the same. Bard possesses off-the-chart spin rates on his four-seamer and, to a slightly lesser extent, on his slider. He led the Majors in four-seam spin rate during the 2019 season, but that didn’t translate to a gaudy swinging-strike rate or overall strikeout rate. The Rays surely have their own ideas on how to get the most out of Bard, who can be controlled through at least the 2025 season if he makes the roster and enjoys a late-blooming breakout.