PROVIDENCE – When it comes to flying the friendly skies, Red Sox manager John Farrell has mapped out a travel schedule that will certainly make the time pass by a little quicker – not mention rack up frequent flyer miles.
Following his appearance at Thursday’s Red Sox-themed “Town Hall Meeting” at La Salle Academy, Farrell will hop on a plane Friday morning and head to Dallas for some face-to-face time with pitcher John Lackey. Farrell then plans to shoot over to Fort Myers on Saturday to see pitchers Felix Doubront and Franklin Morales, both of who have already reported to JetBlue Park.
Farrell’s ultra busy weekend will wrap up Sunday in Mississippi, though the docking he makes there figures to be extra meaningful. In handling Daniel Bard, Farrell has spent much of the offseason mapping out a plan that for intensive purposes is geared toward liberating the right-handed pitcher from his disastrous 2012 season.
Restoring Bard to his pre-2012 form is clearly been a project Farrell has invested a great deal of time in. Speaking to reporters before taking part on a question and answer session with fans, Farrell mentioned that he’s sat down and watched tape of last season’s version Bard – both as a starter in Boston and later as a reliever in both Pawtucket and Boston – and cross-referenced it with how effortlessly the ball came out of Bard’s hand when he first broke into the big leagues in 2009.
“Talking with Daniel, the most encouraging thing in a situation like this is that he’s aware of the changes that are taking place,” Farrell said. “Unwinding those changes and getting him back to the basics – and when I say basics, I mean what he demonstrated previously and the strengths he has – has been the focus.
“If I were to map it out and actually tell him, it’s actually gotten better the deeper we’ve gotten into the offseason,” Farrell continued. “As he’s picked up a ball and gotten back into a throwing program, he’s felt some things naturally come back to him, particularly his arm slot. Most importantly, I think he has a clear view.”
What stood out to Farrell upon closely inspected Bard’s body of work was that in 2012, he was a pitcher who “tried to manipulate the ball a little too much and was maybe a little bit too fine where he was trying to induce a groundball a lot rather than staying with that aggressive approach that made him successful in Boston.”
More than anything, Farrell is looking forward to seeing whether Bard has taken to heart the suggestions he’s steered in the player’s direction. New Boston pitching coach Juan Nieves will accompany Farrell to see Bard at his offseason residence. With two pitching gurus on hand, the 27-year-old Bard is scheduled to throw off the mound for the first time this offseason on Sunday.
“I’m not going to say time cures everything; we’re not to put his challenges aside and pretend they never happened, but I think as he’s gotten farther away from it, he’s had a fresh outlook,” is what Farrell has been able to glean in the several phone conversations he’s conducted with Bard. “The workouts he’s gone through have been very consistent and strong and just the tone and confidence in which he speaks from is another step in the right direction. That will all be solidified once he commands a baseball in spring training and gets some tangible results when he steps on the mound.”
On the subject of whether first baseman Mike Napoli is officially on board with Boston – something that was widely reported Thursday – general manager Ben Cherington said Thursday that there’s nothing official to report at this time, nor does he expect anything to change over the next several days. Napoli originally agreed to a three-year, $39 million pact last month, which now apparently has turned into a one-year, incentive-laden contract.
“Hopefully we are getting somewhere,” noted Cherington. “We’ve had consistent dialogue throughout the winter, but they’ll be a chance to talk more about that soon.”
Added Farrell, “I know there’s some progress being made with Mike so hopefully that continues to head in that direction.”