Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Taming of the Screw...Ball

Daniel Bard doesn't throw a screwball, at least to this writer's knowledge anyway. But he is one of a handful of pitchers around baseball that fans would dearly love to watch on a regular basis. The heading was a bit of fancy about the "Bard" last name in case you were wondering.

Bard has pitched ten innings this spring and has struck out fourteen batters. He throws effortless heat and his last outing, he blew away all three batters in an 1-2-3 inning. Don't you just love watching that kind of performance? Think back: What was one of the best All Star Game moments in recent history? Wasn't it the time that Brad Penny came in and blew away batters with that 100 MPH gas? Wasn't it?

That's what's so exciting about Stephen Strasburg. He doesn't just throw an inning of gas. He throws several innings of gas. Those kinds of pitchers are rare. There was Bob Feller and Nolan Ryan and, for a while, Frank Tanana. There was Steve McDowell. That's fun to watch when a world class arm serves up steaming fastballs to challenge the best hitters on the planet.

Daniel Bard's sensationalism started last spring when he just killed MLB batters during spring games until the Red Sox just had to give him the ball. Bard had a few shaky outings, but for the most part, he lived up to his spring by pitching 49+ innings while striking out 63. He could easily be the closer for a lot of teams, but Papelbon seems to have that job nailed down pretty well.

But again, Bard is the kind of pitcher that makes you rise up a bit on the couch when he gets in the game just like Joba Chamberlain a couple of years ago and Nefti Feliz last year. "Oh cool! Bard's in the game!"

And Bard is like a spare part for the Red Sox, which is why they are such a scary team. They have arms all over the place that can mangle you. If they can get some hitting and improved defense and if their starters are better than last year, they could win 100 games.

But the ones the Fan will be most interested in will be in the games when Bard gets in there. The Fan just digs that gas.

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