PAWTUCKET â Mike Cather was Daniel Bardâs pitching coach in Double-A Portland when Bard made the conversion from starting pitcher to reliever.
What does Cather, currently the minor-league pitching coordinator for the San Diego Padres, recall about watching Bard undergo said conversion in 2008? Letâs just say that experience is something that the struggling Red Sox pitcher should think long and hard about drawing upon during his stint with the Pawtucket Red Sox.
âWhen Daniel got into pro ball, he was always looking for people to help him. He was always reaching out as he tried to figure out the issue,â Cather was saying via phone Friday, âbut after the winter [of 2007-08, when Bard pitched in Hawaii], he just became a lot more independent.
âThe biggest transformation for me was just watching him,â continued Cather, who served as the Sea Dogs pitching coach from 2007-09 and then a major-league advance scout for Boston the past two seasons. âHe knew what he wanted to do and how to go about it. He wasnât afraid to talk about any issue, whether it was the way the ball was coming out of his hand or pulling out on his delivery.
âAfter [relocating to the bullpen], he became very independent and knew what he wanted to do. He was taking his career by the horns and not looking back,â says Cather. âIt reached a point [during the â08 season, one that saw him start off in Class A Greenville before reaching Portland in mid May] where you sat back and let him do his thing because of that self awareness. Sometimes thatâs the missing link between separating the good ones from the okay ones.â
Even from afar, Cather can tell that Bard isnât lacking in the confidence department, something that should allow the 26-year-old to hone in on his main priority while with the PawSox â regaining control of the strike zone.
âThe velocity, itâs hard to carry 97 miles per hour through seven or eight innings. He probably knew that and was wondering how he was going to pace himself,â Cather noted. âHe started in college [at the University of North Carolina] and his first few years of pro ball, but this was a new challenge for him.
âI wouldnât put anything past him from a potential standpoint,â Cather delved further. âHe is more mentally equipped to deal with any situation that comes up now than he was prior to 2008. He can work through any problems because heâs been there and has just enough battle scars to be dangerous.â