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July 31, 2008 at 11:11 PM

Q&A with Daniel Bard

Daniel Bard is back on top of his game after suffering through a nightmare season in 2007. The second of two first-round picks by the Red Sox in the 2006 draft, Bard made his professional debut last year, and the results weren't pretty. Despite a fastball that has been clocked as high as 100 mph, the University of North Carolina product went only 3-7, 7.08 between Greenville and Lancaster, walking 78 batters in 75 innings while striking out only 47. Thanks to some mechanical changes and the influence of Red Sox sport psychologist Bob Tewksbury, the 23-year-old Bard has rebounded nicely, posting an ERA of 1.78 in 38 games this season (15 with Greenville and 23 with Portland), logging 89 strikeouts to go with only 23 walks in 65.2 innings. David Laurila talked to Bard moments after the trading deadline on Thursday afternoon, and prior to word of the Manny Ramirez-trade reaching the Sea Dogs clubhouse.

David Laurila: The trade deadline passed a few minutes ago, and you're obviously still here. What was it like hearing your name mentioned in a trade rumor the past few days?
Daniel Bard
: It's something that just about every guy in the minor leagues goes through at one point or another, and I guess it's at least nice to know that somebody else wants you too; you're in a little bit of demand. It would have been quite an experience to get traded, because it would be like having a whole new family around you, but I'm certainly happy to be where I am.

DL: How did you learn that you were involved in a trade rumor?
DB: I got a call from my agent and a call from my girlfriend. They both said that they heard some things from different places, but nothing was very concrete, so I took it with a grain of salt.

DL: How different were the calls from your agent and girlfriend?
: They were both messages that I checked later, so they were similar in that way. My girlfriend actually freaked out a little more; my agent just said, "Don't expect anything, necessarily, but if something does happen, just be ready for it."

DL: Less than half an hour before the deadline you were playing cards with a few of your teammates in the clubhouse. Were you thinking about the possibility of being traded at the time?
: No, it was totally out of my control, so if something were to happen, whether or not I was playing cards wasn't going to affect it. I was just going along with my day.

DL: Can you talk a little about the changes you've made to your game this summer?
: I think that the biggest thing was becoming a reliever, which is something I found out in spring training. It's obviously a lot different mentality than starting - a little more in your face. You have to come in and be aggressive, and that's what I've tried to do this year, and it's what I think I've done. As far as mechanically, I did drop my arm slot a little bit, just back to what was comfortable. I also worked on finishing pitches - finishing everything toward the plate instead of cutting myself off.

DL: Can you elaborate on what you mean by finishing pitches?
: Basically getting to a flat-back position, head over heels, falling with everything moving toward the plate. I was kind of rotating a little bit before, which led to a lot of misfires; I was lacking a lot of consistency with my pitches. There was a lot of repetition in the bullpen that went into that, including drills where I was repeating my delivery without throwing a baseball, which is easier on your arm. I feel like my body knows what it's supposed to do now. It's just a matter of keeping my head out of the way and letting my body do what it knows how to do.

DL: Has your repertoire or pitch mix changed at all this season?
: Yes, I was throwing a curveball -- a fast, a curve and a change. I actually threw a curveball for the first two or three months of this season, and it was actually pretty good for me, but it wasn't as consistent as I'd have liked, so a little less than a month ago I started throwing a slider. That's kind of developed in the last few weeks as a good pitch for me. It's been a strikeout pitch, and I've been in able to throw it early in the count as well. So right now I'm fastball, slider and changeup.

DL: When I interviewed you in November 2006, I asked how difficult you thought it might be if you encountered adversity in your first professional season. Now that you've experienced that, was it more difficult than you imagined it would be?
DB: Yeah, I mean, I went through about as tough a season as a minor leaguer can go through last year. I just couldn't find any sense of consistency in what I was doing out there. I basically just battled through it and tried to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and kept my eyes on that. That's part of the reason I am where I'm at today.

DL: How important has Bob Tewksbury been to you over the past year?
: He's been important, but I wouldn't say that he's been the one thing that got me out of the funk that I was in. But he was a big part of it, because I learned so many things from him. The mechanical things I fixed on my own and with some pitching coaches, but there are things I learned from Tewks that helped me take my game to the next level as far as being aggressive and taking what he calls a type-A player out to the mound every day - a guy who is a winner and finds a way to get outs no matter what.

DL: What role has Mike Cather played in your development?
DB: A big role, especially mechanically. He was with me in Hawaii last fall, and we compared some video from the previous year when I was throwing from a lower slot. He said that's where I looked comfortable, and that it's where I needed to be. It wasn't an instant thing to go back to - it took time for me to find it again - but we both agreed that it was where I needed to throw from, and we went from there.

DL: How much of your success this season can be attributed to the mechanical changes, and how much to the mental side of your game?
DB: I'd say it's 50/50. I did have mechanical issues to take care of, and once those were taken care of it was a matter of getting my confidence back, the feeling that I'm better than every hitter that I'm going to face. I feel that now, and I think that's how you have to feel to pitch in the big leagues. At this point I think it's more the mental; the physical is something that you just have to keep in tune every day. You need to keep the feel for your offspeed pitches, and keep the feel for your fastball, and once you're out there it's competition. You're competing against the hitter and trying to find a way to get him out, and part of that battle is won in your head.