Bard Diary: Season's up-and-downs

May, 30, 2010
The Red Sox have had an up and down season. They'll sweep a series with a first place opponent and then lose a couple to a sub .500 team. In his latest Red Sox diary, reliever Daniel Bard tries to make sense of what this Red Sox team is all about, explains what he'd change about interleague play, goes in depth on how he approaches hitters and why you don't want to make him mad. (as told to Louise K. Cornetta over the weekend)

If I could tell you what this team is all about, I wouldn’t be in the bullpen. I'd be in the manager's office running things. People say it over and over, that's baseball and it's a long season with ups and downs. You're going to have a lot of things happen that don't make sense. We've had a lot of that so far both good and bad. We sweep the Rays at their place, which is a tough place to play. We come back here and have trouble beating the Royals. We have Billy Hall even throwing a one-two-three ninth inning on Friday night. Some stuff just can't be explained. Hall was impressive. You never want a position player to have to throw, but we're always thankful when they do eat up an inning because it saves your bullpen. By Hall pitching it saved me or Pap or Manny from having to throw, basically, a meaningless inning in a game we were down by seven. We're always thankful for that. If they can go out and have a little fun doing it in the process, that's great too.

Something I've been enjoying is playing guitar in the clubhouse before games with Clay and Manny. We play a little bit of everything from country to classic rock. The trend tends to be that Clay learns them. He'll find a song by looking online. He'll teach Manny and me. Manny doesn't pick up the guitar a lot. He kind of just does this one thing. He's the best freestyle singer who throws lyrics together pretty much about anyone in the room, that's always fun to listen to. He picks on the trainers a lot with songs that he sings about them. Right now, Clay is the only one of us that could be a rock star. I've only been playing guitar for four or five months now. I've pretty much just been self teaching myself. I'm picking it up quicker than I thought I would but I've got a long way to go.

Manny is hoping the Celtics win. He says, "Beat LA." I enjoy going to the games, but I haven't gotten really into it. I've never been a real NBA basketball fan. I will say the games are fun to go to. I was sad to see the Bruins lose. I was more into those games than I was into basketball. It's cool just to watch another sport besides baseball. It gives us a break.

Interleague play has started. I do like it, but I don't think it's done right. I don't like the rivalry system that is set up where we play the Phillies six times a year. The Yankees get the Mets and the Rays get the Marlins six times. We're getting the best National League team in the Majors automatically six times a season. The Rays and Yankees are getting, well, the Mets and the Marlins, which is not quite the same. Regardless of the results that come out, over a ten year period, it's really not fair to us in my opinion. Interleague play is fine, but I'd be okay if we didn’t play quite as many games. I mean, it's hard to go into a National League park and win. We were able to do it against the Phillies, but that doesn’t always happen. Our pitchers are unfamiliar with hitting. As a pitcher it's tough to face another pitcher in the batter's box. I'm not complaining about it, but it psyches you out if you're not used to doing it. You don't know quite how to face them. How much should you attack them? Should I throw my breaking ball? It's just a different approach. I don’t know if that many games should be decided on something that you're unfamiliar with. Dice-K has been our best pitcher up at the plate. He put together some good at-bats. He got a hit in his first one and I think got a sac bunt down as well. If he doesn't get a hit the rest of interleague play, he's still done his job as that was pretty impressive.

Things like Dice-K being a hit machine are what we talk about in the clubhouse. If you ask me, I'd say our clubhouse has been the same as usual all season. Regardless of what's happening out on the field, you're not going to see the rollercoaster that is portrayed, maybe, in the media. As a baseball player, you've got to be even keeled. No one would be succeeding at this level if you took every loss as devastating or every walk-off win like you're going to the World Series because it's not that way. You've got to keep things simple that it's one game in a 162 game season. You can't get too up or down over it. You've got to try and keep your performance consistent on the field. Don't get too happy or too sad. Keep it simple.

On the subject of clubhouse chemistry, I think it's good to know that the pitchers and hitters interact a good bit. There are no lines drawn in the clubhouse. But pitchers do tend to hang with pitchers more and visa versa. It's not because of likes and dislikes. As pitchers, we're with each other the most out in the field shagging flies in the outfield or doing our drills or throwing in the outfield. So you get to know those guys a little better. This group has really good team chemistry. I know when we go out to eat on the road, we'll go out and mix groups -- I mean we'll have a mix of position players and pitchers. With the pitchers, I'd say maybe a little bit there's truth to the bullpen and starting pitchers generally hang out with other bullpen guys or starting pitchers respectively. But, then again, Clay and Jon [Lester] are two of my good friends on the team. We're similar ages and came up through the system at similar times. So our friendships happened kind of naturally. Hopefully, you get along with everyone in the clubhouse, but as the season goes on, you find out who you want to spend your time with off the field too.

On the subject of pitching, there was a stretch recently when our starting pitchers were going deep into the games. I wasn't being used a lot. We liked the rest down there in the bullpen. You know it's not going to last a whole month or anything like that. If we had four or five days in a row where we're getting only a couple innings of work, we'll take advantage of it while we can. With baseball, even if guys are throwing well they might give you five shutout innings but throw a hundred and ten pitches to get there and we're going to still have to finish those games. It's good to have some rest and the pitchers have been throwing well for the most part. Hopefully we can stay on that roll.

I wanted to mention that the Scott Schoeneweis release was tough for me to see him go. Personality-wise, he fit in the bullpen and was a fun guy to be around. His situation with his family troubles over the past year having his wife pass away, you couldn't ask for a better guy who was more upbeat and appreciated everything day to day. I really feel for him. The timing of the release was not great being the day before the one year anniversary of his wife passing, I just really felt for him and his kids. He had his kids around here a couple times. They were really cute kids. You wouldn't wish that on anybody. I do wish him the best.

Then what happened with Darnell McDonald's release, I actually have that one figured out. That whole thing was weird. I didn’t find out he was designated until I got back to the hotel. Sometimes when you're on the road, you don't see as much because you may get out of there after a game a little quicker. I found out that night that he had been designated. I thought, "Well he's going to catch on with somebody else for sure based on the way he's played for us." Then sure enough he was back about six o'clock the next day. Players, especially bullpen guys because we don't have a lot else to do, are trying to figure out how. Joe Nelson and I were trying to figure out how that works when you designate someone but then get him back. Turned out they didn't file the paperwork yet. They don't file the paperwork until twenty minutes before the game. So while it had been announced to the media and publicized, they hadn't actually followed the paperwork. Nice to know how that stuff works.

Someone told me recently about John Lackey saying I was nasty and had some of the best stuff in the game. That really means a lot to me coming from a guy like him because I have a ton of respect for him as a pitcher and as person, especially with the amount of success he'd had. He's so well respected around the game to have him say something like that means a lot. Hopefully, I can keep following him up on the mound like I did the day he said that.

Talking about being on the mound got me thinking about how I approach hitters. How I approach a hitter is a combination of things. Sometimes you're going to look at the scouting report to see if a guy has a big hole in his swing or a glaring weakness against a certain pitch. You're going to naturally attack that weakness. Other times, your pitches might not match up with his holes. So you just have to go with your strengths and trust that it's going to work out. I will look at the scouting reports to see if there is something in general a guy likes such as if he likes his fastballs in or out and I'll start him out the opposite of that. Then you read swings from there throughout the at-bat. Then it's about constantly making adjustments. There's no big league hitter you can attack the same way every time you face him and get him out. It's why they're here, because they make adjustments. As pitchers, we've got to counter that with making adjustments of our own.

After a tough outing for me, my remedy is to forget about it. I mean, honestly, when I have a bad outing, it makes me so ticked off that I'll go out the next outing and basically in my mind the hitters don't have a chance. That's kind of how it should be every time and it is a lot of the time, but sometimes when you do have that rough outing it's due to a little bit less intensity out there. You don't have that same swagger or confidence and hitters can kind of sense that. If I feel that was the reason for my bad outing, the next one is going to be the direct opposite. At least in my mind, I'm too mad out there to let anything happen.

I'll leave you with something on my mind. I've been reading a good book on my iPad. I'm not a reader, but there is an iBook app on there that got me reading. The book is called The Bullpen Gospels. It's actually written by a current Blue Jays pitcher, a guy named Dirk Hayhurst. He wrote it about his minor league journey. I'm half-way through it. It's pretty entertaining stuff. He did a blog when he was in the minors and my dad would send them to me telling me I have to read it because it's funny stuff. I got his name that way and enjoyed reading his blog. That's how I knew his name and when I saw he had a book out, I found it on the iPad somehow. I haven't met the guy. It's a pretty good read. There's a series of anecdotes and short stories describing some crazy teammates he's had throughout the minors. Everyone he describes you can say I played with someone just like that. Any pro baseball player can relate to his stories, but anyone who enjoys baseball, it's a good read too.

The Minor Leagues are very different from the Majors. It's still pro baseball but I feel like you get to know your teammates better off the field. To survive a long grueling minor league season, which is more grueling than being up here because you're not getting paid very much and the travel is terrible and you're not getting the fan support that motivates us every day. You kind of have to depend on your teammates to keep you a little more upbeat every day. You'll go out for a beer after the game and stuff tends to happen a little more down there that you'll get some good stories out of.

My best Minor League story I'm not sure I can share, but I can tell you about a trip when I was in Double-A going from Trenton back home to Portland. It was a night game in Trenton. We left at like eleven, eleven-thirty for a seven hour drive. We knew we'd be getting in at the crack of dawn. Turns out we broke down three or four hours into the trip on 95. The bus was seriously broken and was smoking and stuff. They were trying to get another bus lined up. If you've played in the minor leagues more than a couple years, this has happened to you before. Usually, they get a new bus and you just sit around for an hour waiting for it. This time, we waited on the side of the road for seven hours. From 3AM to 10AM we were sitting on the side of Route 95. This was in August. It was about 110 degrees on that bus. Some guys were somehow sleeping on it, I don't know how. I got off. I didn’t sleep a wink. We got in about noon the next day and had to play a game that night. I took a two hour nap and pitched, just not very well. Was pretty miserable, but you go through something like that with your teammates and you can't help but love them or hate them or at least get to know them a lot better. No broken buses now that I'm here in Boston. We did have a delay on a plane trying to get out of New York though. They closed LaGuardia and flew our plane from there to JFK. They closed JFK but told us we could still take off. Then we got held up by security. We were starting to think the airports there were run by Yankee fans.



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