With the way the Boston Red Sox bullpen pitched over the weekend in Detroit Daniel Bard's stay in the rotation may be shorter than anyone expected.
Tonight the flame-throwing right-hander makes his first-ever start when the Red Sox continue a three-game set with the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
One of the better setup men in the game the past couple of seasons, most assumed Bard would inherit the role of Red Sox closer when Jonathan Papelbon left the team as a free agent. But with veterans John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Red Sox opted to make Bard a starter, something he hadn't done since 2007 in the minors.
Then after Andrew Bailey was acquired to be the team's closer, he went down in spring training with a thumb injury. Add in the miserable first weekend that newly appointed closer Alfredo Aceves and setup man Mark Melancon had, and fans in Boston were clamoring for Bard to return to the bullpen without even having made a start.
"Poor guy has been thrown into a situation that no one should have to be thrown into really before his first Major League start of the season," Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. "Words aren't going to do anything more than his performance will, that's for sure."
After pitching to a 1.93 ERA in 2010, Bard struggled at times last season, going 2-9 with a 3.33 ERA. He also blew five saves.
In 2007, Bard started 22 games split between low and high Single-A ball. He tossed 75 innings, gave up 76 hits and five homers. His ERA was 7.08 and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was a pitiful 0.60 (47 strikeouts and 78 walks).
"It's been kind of a long road to get to this point," Bard said. "I've put a lot of work into getting here. The opportunity finally presented itself, and I'm excited about it."
In spring training this season, Bard started five games and threw 24 2/3 innings, surrendering 21 hits and two homers. Worst of all, he had a 1.1 k/bb ratio (18 strikeouts and 16 walks), so his wildness has not subsided.
Boston found the win column for the first time this season on Monday, rallying for a a 4-2 win.
Ryan Sweeney put the Red Sox ahead for good with a ninth inning RBI single, while Dustin Pedroia hit a solo home run and scored twice for the Red Sox, who got their first win under Valentine after dropping all three games in Detroit to start the season.
"Great effort by a whole group of guys out there tonight and they're trying their butts off to get that first win and we got it," Valentine said.
Felix Doubront lasted five innings and gave up two runs on four hits with three walks and six strikeouts. Scott Atchison (1-0) pitched three scoreless innings to pick up the win, while Alfredo Aceves pitched a perfect ninth inning and his first save.
"I've just got to manage it a little better," Valentine said. "That's all I think. I think we have the arms out there to do what we have to do -- just get the guys in the right position to do it."
Kelly Johnson and Edwin Encarnacion both drove in a run for the Blue Jays, who took two of three from Cleveland to begin the season. Henderson Alvarez was strong in the start, giving up one run on four hits over six innings. Sergio Santos (0-1) was tagged with the loss, blowing his second save in as many chances.
Hoping to even this series tonight for the Blue Jays will be righty Kyle Drabek, who disappointed last season, going 4-5 with a 6.06 ERA. He was jettisoned to Triple-A in June before returning as a reliever in September.
Drabek was given a shot to join the Jays' rotation thanks in part to Brett Cecil's struggles, as well as a foot injury late in spring to Dustin McGowan.
Boston was 10-8 against the Jays last season.