Daniel Bard seemed like the logical next option to close games for the Boston Red Sox after the departure of Jonathan Papelbon ahead of the 2012 season.
Instead, he didn’t even get a chance to compete for the role.
Papelbon left the Sox following the 2011 season for the Philadelphia Phillies. Bard at that point had become an intriguing late-inning option for Boston, with his repertoire headlined by a blistering two-seam fastball that could clip 100.
Instead of giving the in-house option a chance, the Red Sox instead added Andrew Bailey and made the ill-fated decision to convert Bard into a starter.
Bard told the full story behind that offseason during an appearance this week on WEEI’s “Bradfo Sho” podcast.
“I mean, that was the logical progression, right?” Bard said of taking over as closer. “I thought I would be. I never was dead set on this is what I have to do, but I think after ‘11, when Papelbon left, I kind of assumed I’d slide into the closer role, that was my thought at the end of the year. He and I had some conversations and it didn’t sound like he was going to come back to Boston.
"And then, I think it was like two or three weeks into the offseason, in November, we traded for Andrew Bailey, which he was an All-Star closer with Oakland at the time. So I was like, well, I guess he’s the closer. I just assumed, they got him and he had 60 saves over the past (three) years, so I assumed I’d slot back into that eighth-inning role, which I think was a little frustrating at the time – which is part of the reason I wanted to start. Just to do something different.
“I was kind of already thinking about it, and I was like, well now I’m not going to be closing, so I was just ready to try something different. A new challenge, in a way.”
The Bard as a starter experiment failed, and is often cited as the cause of the derailment of his career – which has since been revived with the Rockies. Bailey, meanwhile, got hurt right before the season started, leaving the dreadful 2012 Red Sox to piece things together in the ninth inning on the more-rare-than-common occasion that there was a save opportunity. Alfredo Aceves ended up finishing the season as the saves leader with 25.
Koji Uehara stabilized Boston’s closer role in 2013, which was the final campaign in which Bard ever appeared with the Red Sox. He was designated for assignment by the Red Sox that September after spending the bulk of the year in the minors.
He was claimed by the Cubs but never made an appearance with them, making his final outing with Boston – which came on April 27, 2013 – his last big league appearance until resurfacing with Colorado over seven years later.