SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Something unexplained happened to Daniel Bard while he was building his second career. Through teaching players about the mental side, in hopes of helping them avoid the pitfalls that halted his career a few years ago, the control that mysteriously disappeared suddenly was back.
“When you’re able to move on -- like baseball is really important, but it’s not everything -- that’s a powerful perspective-changer,” Bard said. “That, combined with the stuff I was working on with guys, which was mental skills and how to deal with performance anxiety and how to relax away from the field.
“What I was teaching them for two years just by accident rubs off, and I picked up on things.”
So here is Bard, 34, making a comeback with the Rockies, who brought him into camp Friday under a Minor League contract. Bard hasn’t thrown a big league pitch since 2013, the last of his five seasons with the Red Sox -- the final two of which saw him beset with severe control problems.
Bard recently held a tryout at a Phoenix-area high school, and the Rockies expressed immediate interest. The Rockies have spent the last year-plus collecting relievers -- some young, others with big-league experience -- to build depth. In 211 Major League games with the Red Sox (2009-13), Bard was 10-19 with a 3.67 ERA, including a 1.93 in 2010.
But 43 walks in 59 1/3 innings in 2012 was a red flag, and he managed just six outs in two appearances in 2013.
Multiple Minor League contracts later, he voluntarily retired after posting a combined 13.50 ERA with the Cardinals and Mets at the Rookie and Double-A levels. By that time, he had scrapped a conventional delivery for a submarine, but it didn’t work.
Bard spent the last two years with the D-backs, working in mental skills -- first strictly with the Minors, but last season doing some of his work with the big club. Part of his job as a sounding board for players required being on the field during pregame workouts and acting as a throwing partner, a natural extension for him.
And he started throwing -- with his regular motion -- well enough to dream.
“I started to feel different than I had felt the last five years, in a good way,” Bard said. “So this past offseason, I went back home [to Greenville, S.C.] and built it back up just to see how everything felt, and it’s felt really good ever since.
“It got to the point where it would have been really hard for me to keep doing my job with the Diamondbacks without constantly thinking about, ‘Have I still got it?’ I didn’t have those feelings for two years. I was over it. I was frustrated.
“But the second that feeling returned, I was like I’ve either got to do it and give it a real shot or move out of baseball, because I can’t stay in baseball with that feeling and do my job as a coach.”
Ready for the start
While righty Jeff Hoffman is scheduled to start and throw two innings in Saturday’s 1:10 p.m. MT Cactus League opener against the D-backs, lefty Kyle Freeland will throw his two innings in a simulated game. Manager Bud Black said Freeland and righties German Márquez and Jon Gray -- who hold the three set spots in the rotation -- likely won’t be seen in Cactus League play until the second time through the rotation.