Daniel Bard makes Rockies’ roster after seven-year absence
10:28 PM ET
  • Associated Press

DENVER — Daniel Bard never ran from the control hiccups that derailed a promising pitching career with the Boston Red Sox.

Through a half-dozen comeback attempts since his most recent appearance in the big leagues in 2013, Bard couldn’t rediscover his control and finally settled into a job last year as a player mentor and mental skills coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

In addition to offering advice and lending an ear to players, he shagged fly balls and played some catch during warm-ups. Soon, players began telling him that his throws were pretty nasty and wondering why he wasn’t on a big league mound.

Intrigued, Bard got back on a mound in January in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“I was throwing mid-90s, throwing strikes with ease, and I hadn’t done that in eight years,” he said. “So that was when I was like, ‘OK, I think I’m going to give this serious consideration.'”

On Friday, Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black informed Bard, 35, that he had made the roster.

“It’s going to be a great story when he comes back and pitches well,” Black said. “We’re optimistic about that.”

Even though it has been more than seven years since he pitched in the majors, Bard said he isn’t thinking about the first batter he’ll face when the 60-game season gets underway later this month.

“I haven’t even gotten there yet,” Bard said. “In many ways, I think just getting on a mound in the spring training games back in March was as big a hurdle as any and then having the chance to pitch in these intrasquad games” once teams reconvened this month following the coronavirus-pandemic-caused delay.

“I’m sure there’ll be a little more adrenaline once we get the real thing going next week, but I’ll just take it one step at a time and trust that it’s going to be similar to what’s been going on,” he said.

Bard was considered the closer-in-waiting in Boston after a quick climb to the big leagues. The 28th overall pick in the 2006 draft, he reached the majors in 2009 and, in his first 197 innings, posted a 2.88 ERA with a whopping 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings.

He developed control issues in 2012, and his ERA ballooned to 6.22 while he was in the grips of a full-blown case of the yips, unable to consistently find the plate with any of his pitches. An abdominal injury limited him to only two appearances in 2013, and in subsequent seasons, he had failed comeback attempts with the Rangers, Cardinals and Mets.

The Rockies gave him one last shot this year, and he has made the most of it, regaining not only his control but also his confidence with a stellar spring and strong summer in which he returned home to Greenville, South Carolina, during the pandemic.

In signing a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training, “I was like, ‘This is really cool,'” Bard said. “I never thought I’d pitch [again] in any big league game, spring training or not.”

This spring, he finally felt comfortable again on the mound and in his skin.

“I’d signed all sorts of deals from 2012 to ’17, a lot of different teams, trying to get back, and I just was never comfortable because I wasn’t confident in what I was doing on the field,” he said. “And so much of my identity was tied up in that, so even in a clubhouse setting, any time you’re part of a team, you want to be the guy who can pull his own weight. And I was terrible. I couldn’t throw strikes, and I wasn’t a contributor, so that just makes you feel like you’re added baggage and weight that everybody else is having to take care of.

“Being in the clubhouse this year, I knew I was different out on the mound.”

Not even the hiatus from his teammates between mid-March and mid-July dampened Bard’s mood. He said that the time back home simulated the minor league stint he expected to start the season.

“It was a good thing for me, honestly,” he said. “It was a huge blessing in disguise. I was able to go home. I had a great group of guys to go work out with. We had the stadium opened to us, and I was able to throw like 10-12 live BPs to Triple-A and big league hitters and got tons of feedback, got real comfortable with my repertoire.”

Bard had a couple of nervous moments when summer camp began earlier this month at Coors Field, but he quickly saw that his sinker had enough movement at altitude.

“Maybe not exactly like at sea level, but it definitely has enough movement to be a decent pitch,” he said.

In this strangest of seasons, Bard figures he might be the biggest beneficiary. His control issues never had anything to do with performance anxiety in front of big crowds, so the empty stands won’t bother him one bit, he said.

“If anything, I’m very accustomed to pitching with no fans,” he said, “given all the back fields I’ve had to throw on.”

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