Bard ready to reclaim closer role as Rox put together 28-man roster

April 5th, 2022

SCOTTSDLAE, Ariz. -- Rockies reliever Daniel Bard was ready for a chance to reclaim the closer role long before arriving.

While manager Bud Black declined to announce a closer, Bard’s performance in Spring Training and his familiarity in the role points to him receiving the opportunity to protect ninth-inning leads when the season begins Friday at Coors Field against the Dodgers (2 p.m. MT).

The Rockies did make the move that puts the 28-player roster in place, barring injury or unexpected change. They added lefty Denver native Ty Blach, a former starter with the Giants and Orioles, to the roster. To clear room, they moved No. 5-ranked prospect Ryan Rolison, a lefty starting pitcher, to the 60-day injured list with left shoulder inflammation.

The team also put righty Peter Lambert, with whom the team is being careful with his surgically repaired right elbow, on the 10-day IL. On May 2, rosters drop to 26 players, with pitchers capped at 13.

In four Cactus League appearances, including Monday night's 8-7 loss to the Brewers, Bard held opponents scoreless on three hits, with six strikeouts against one walk. Left-handed hitters -- against whom his struggles helped lead to his removal from the closer role late last season -- went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts.

And he’s throwing hard. In the two appearances at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, where Statcast readings are available, his fastball maintained in the mid 97-98 mph range.

“I [trained] hard in the offseason, trying to do it in a calculated way, taking lots of rest between sessions,” said Bard, who turns 37 on June 25. “If I know I have a Tuesday and a Friday bullpen -- whatever it is -- I plan accordingly and put a lot of rest and recovery. I try to train my body to get to that max output.”

Bard began measuring his fastball velocity in January. He had to have faith at that point, since the lockout had not been settled -- and would not be until March 10.

“I ramp it up and try to hold that intensity without overworking or wearing yourself down,” Bard said. “You don’t want to be simulating the regular season. No matter who you are, if you’re a high-use reliever, you get weaker throughout the season.”

Through June 9, Bard was 9-for-12 in save opportunities, had a 3.60 ERA and struck out 35 batters against 11 walks. But after giving up three runs and managing just one out against the Cubs on Aug. 25 for his eighth blown save, the Rockies began using Carlos Estévez as the closer.

“After 2020, people hadn’t seen me in awhile and there was a little surprise effect, definitely our division adjusted to some things,” said Bard, who was out of the Majors from April 2013 through the 2019 season because of severe control issues. “I learned how my stuff plays, home, road, different parts of the zone. Sometimes I got away with, sometimes I didn’t.”

Of note, expect Alex Colomé to serve as the primary righty setup man, with Estévez to work the seventh, and righties Tyler Kinley and Robert Stephenson and lefty Lucas Gilbreath to match up in key situations.