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PAWTUCKET â€” Mike Cather was Daniel Bardâ€™s 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? Letâ€™s 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.
â€śWhen 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€ť Cather was saying via phone Friday, â€śbut after the winter [of 2007-08, when Bard pitched in Hawaii], he just became a lot more independent.
â€śThe biggest transformation for me was just watching him,â€ť 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. â€śHe knew what he wanted to do and how to go about it. He wasnâ€™t 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.
â€śAfter [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€ť says Cather. â€śIt reached a point [during the â€™08 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 thatâ€™s the missing link between separating the good ones from the okay ones.â€ť
Even from afar, Cather can tell that Bard isnâ€™t 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.
â€śThe velocity, itâ€™s 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€ť Cather noted. â€śHe 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.
â€śI wouldnâ€™t put anything past him from a potential standpoint,â€ť Cather delved further. â€śHe 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 heâ€™s been there and has just enough battle scars to be dangerous.â€ť