That everything in 2020 is weird is a given.
Teams will be (probably) be playing without fans but with simulated crowd noise taken from MLB The Show 20; players are creating distanced celebratory routines; and spitting is strictly prohibited.
So a year of weirdness seems like a perfect time for a former superstar reliever to attempt a comeback. That would be Daniel Bard, formerly of the Red Sox and now signed to the Rockies on a minor league contract. It’s too early to be certain, but Bard has the potential to become a valuable addition to the Rockies’ bullpen.
As a quick refresher, Bard played for the Red Sox from 2009-2013. In 2011, he set a Red Sox record for consecutive scoreless appearances with 25. He’s also been clocked as throwing at 102 mph and was one of the premiere set-up men in baseball. From 2009- 2011, he earned a 2.88 ERA and a 1.056 WHIP, striking out 213 batters with 76 walks in 197 innings.
Things went bad down the stretch in 2011 and ended on a disastrous note for Bard. He finished with an ERA of 10.64 because he was unable to address control issues. In 2012, he was moved to the starting rotation, which led to him developing the yips and losing control of his pitches.
Bard was mired in the Sox minor league system for two years before leaving to spend stints in the organizations of the Cardinals, Cubs, Mets, and Rangers. He last appeared in an MLB game in April 2013 when he walked two Astros batters on nine pitches. Bard has four pitches: a four-seam fastball, a sinker, a slider, and a changeup. (You can read Nick Groke’s terrific article from February here.)
In 2017, he retired and was hired by the Diamondbacks as a “franchise player mentor.” His job involved helping young pitchers learn how to focus and master the mental game of baseball. In the course of working with the D-backs’ players, Bard began to rethink his own game. He threw a tryout for scouts in Arizona.
Enter the Rockies.
Bard, now 35, signed a minor-league contract with the Rockies. The comeback was on. As Jeff Todd put it, “If [Bard] can pull off even a lone MLB appearance, this would rate as one of the least-likely career revivals we’ve ever seen.”
Initially, the comeback seemed destined to fail. Bard’s three appearances in spring training were uneven. He had an ERA of 27.00. In 2 1⁄3 innings, giving up five hits for seven earned runs with three walks. To complicate matters — because this is Rockies baseball, after all — he also struck out three. Bard continued to work during MLB’s suspended season and was invited to the Rockies’ Summer Camp.
So far, the news is positive.
Bud Black has said he’s impressed with the way the ball leaves Bard’s hand.
Although Rockies fans haven’t been able to see much video footage of the team’s intrasquad scrimmages (the Rockies have opted not to provide a livestream for fans), Groke has observed that Bard has had a good Summer Camp. On Monday, he tweeted that Bard had been “unhittable.”
Daniel Bard went three up-down tonight at Coors Field. Murphy easy grounder, Story K, McMahon fly out. Bard looks goood. Rockies are very pleased. Seems to be pitching his way to opening day.— Nick Groke (@nickgroke) July 14, 2020
Here’s some video from Monday, courtesy of Thomas Harding:
This is Rockies RHP Daniel Bard, who last pitched for the #RedSox in '13 and in pro ball in '17 (control issues) is having a solid Summer Camp. He works vs. Daniel Murphy here. pic.twitter.com/g5rKETEgQN— Thomas Harding (@harding_at_mlb) July 14, 2020
The Rockies’ intrasquad scrimmages have been between the Purples (Nolan Arenado’s team) and the Pinstripes (Trevor Story’s team). Bard is a Pinstripe.
He took the mound for the Wednesday night game with a look that was very — well, see for yourself:
Wait. Is that duct tape? Rockies, WYD?
When asked about Bard’s makeshift jersey, Bud Black said, “I don’t know who came up with that idea, whether it was Tiny [Mike “Tiny” Pontarelli, the team’s clubhouse manager] or Daniel, but I think the McGyver in whoever that was showed up.”
The reason for Bard’s lack of a jersey is more mundane. As Black explained, “When you go to spring training, I think we primarily are in purple. We don’t fit out all 60-plus players in the pinstripes.”
There was a bit of laughter after Black confused Daniel Bard with Daniel Murphy. Black acknowledged the error, and close the media availability by saying, “I’d like to see Daniel Bard in a pinstriped uni with his name on the back. That’s B-A-R-D.”
In the meantime, someone, please, get Daniel Bard a pinstriped jersey. He’s attempting a comeback after seven years, so he’s earned it.