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PAWTUCKET â€” Stop if youâ€™ve heard this before, but PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur feels that embattled reliever Daniel Bard is closer than the numbers suggest.
Sauveur provided words of reassurance on Wednesday afternoon, one day after Bard had a devil of a time locating the strike zone. You probably know the grizzly numbers by now, but here they are again: On his way to recording one out Tuesday night against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Bard walked four and allowed two runs. Just 10 of the 27 pitches he recorded were strikes.
Despite Bardâ€™s latest bout of misery â€“ one inflated his Triple-A ERA to 7.71 â€“ there are signs that suggest the ills are curable. From Sauveurâ€™s dugout perch, what he saw was a pitcher who was missing the strike zone by not that much.
â€śHe tried to make adjustments, but they didnâ€™t work out,â€ť Sauveur said. â€śMechanically, I thought he looked very good.â€ť
Added manager Arnie Beyeler, â€śIt was everything we were looking for except for the strikes. The slider has been consistent, but he canâ€™t pitch up there (meaning the majors) with just one pitch. Heâ€™s got to command the fastball, but itâ€™s getting more consistent.â€ť
Bard and Sauveur spent a few minutes in Pawtucketâ€™s weight room prior to Wednesdayâ€™s twinbill against the Junior Yankees. After gazing at a computer screen for several minutes, Bard raised his right arm and followed through, the shadow pitching motion suggesting that the student and teacher were discussing Bardâ€™s release point.
â€śHe sees the difference from where he was two years ago and last year compared to where he was at the beginning of this year,â€ť said Sauveur about how handy these in-depth video sessions have been in seeking to put Bard on the right track. â€śWeâ€™re getting close to where he was two years ago and youâ€™re seeing the velocity go up and the command is more around the zone. Heâ€™s just got to find it in the zone.â€ť
With rosters set to expand in a few weeks, Sauveur was asked if thereâ€™s a sense of urgency in restoring Bard to the point that he can be counted on as a dependable late-game option upon rejoining the parent club.
Downplaying the idea, Sauveur responded, â€śItâ€™s a matter of timing. Heâ€™s on the right path. Maybe heâ€™s not going as fast as we all want, but heâ€™s on the right path. I hear all the time that the results arenâ€™t there, but itâ€™s coming.â€ť