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The Boston Red Sox called up Darnell McDonald on Tuesday to serve as outfield depth; he's merely AL-only fodder.
Note the formerly active player he replaced: Daniel Bard, who was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket following a control meltdown Monday.
His transformation from reliever to starter this year has hardly gone swimmingly, both mechanically and emotionally. After a decent April that could've been chalked up as an adjustment period, Bard has drowned with a 5.03 May ERA and Sunday's five-out, five-run, six-walk debacle. Toning down his fastball velocity as part of his role change has made him seem less like an up-and-coming pitcher and more like a pitching machine, as noted by his eroding swinging-strike percentage.
Bard's sluggish body language has resembled Clay Buchholz's during his woeful 2008 campaign and can't be helping the situation. He seemed resigned to the fact that he needs to regain his old ways on the mound. This experiment looks dead unless he can show a dynamic approach alteration at Triple-A. Even then, there's the skepticism of it being a true revelation considering it would happen on the farm and not in the bigs.
Moving Bard back to the bullpen was what many roto hounds hoped for, but his problems run deeper; he needs a complete makeover, not a simple paint job. Plus, interim door-slammer Alfredo Aceves has rope as Boston waits for Andrew Bailey (thumb) to resurface. Bard's fastball, if right, can still be dynamite, but there's a lot for him to correct for that even to be a factor again.
Barring a "Eureka!" moment, the soon-to-be 27-year-old appears destined to follow in the likely fantasy footsteps of Neftali Feliz - not a starter, not a stopper, and worthless in mixed leagues, outside those deep enough to hope for a quick, emphatic Pawtucket turnaround that convinces Boston he deserves another opportunity.
Bard's replacement for Saturday and beyond is not yet known. One that kinda, sorta lines up is Daisuke Matsuzaka (Tommy John surgery), who's partaking in a Pawtucket rehab start tonight, his eighth farm effort and sixth at the highest level. If he takes this weekend's spot, he'd step back onto an MLB diamond one day short of a year after his right elbow's ulnar collateral ligament was repaired.
Despite recently battling a sore neck, he seems to be back in the flow with a 3.53 ERA, 28 K's and seven walks in 35 2/3 innings. In a recent rehab start, his fastball averaged about 91 mph (not far off from his norm), but the nibbler needs to get confidence back in his secondary stuff. Adding to his risk is the typical fine-tuning period that comes with returnees from this procedure.
Still, he shouldn't be on AL-only waiver wires, and for mixers he could at least give the occasional good start if not regain his erratically useful abilities in the next few months. If you're not forced to activate him upon picking him up, a stab is even more justified.
The BoSox could also go with one of two lefties whose careers they've repaired with a bullpen shift - Andrew Miller or Rich Hill - if Dice-K isn't ready. They'd merely be AL-only dice rolls depending on who would get the call.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won several industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, hear him every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. On Thursdays, he visits 106.1 FM WMTI in New Orleans and Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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