Black discusses Bard's outing for Team USA

Rockies closer off his game, doesn't record an out in tough Classic appearance

March 20th, 2023

LAS VEGAS -- When  couldn’t find the strike zone in the fifth inning of Team USA’s quarterfinal matchup against Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic on Saturday in Miami, the entire baseball world saw a very good reliever melt down on a very big stage. 

Rockies fans hope they didn’t see a manifestation of the distant past that could signal trouble in the near future for Colorado’s closer.

The veteran right-hander issued a walk, gave up a single, threw a wild pitch, hit a batter, and walked another to force in a run in an eventual 9-7 USA victory. In all, he was charged with four runs on one hit and two walks, and he didn’t record an out.

Every reliever has a bad outing. It’s just that not every reliever went from one of the most dominant in the game to out of the game completely due to control issues and then, seven years later, to one of the elite closers in the game in his late 30s.

The “yips” that caused Bard to lose his way while with the Red Sox from 2012-13 led to his long exile from the Majors. But after an inspiring return in 2020, and a career year in ’22 that led to a two-year contract extension, could the yips have returned?

Rockies manager Bud Black doesn’t think so.

“I can’t speak for Daniel because I’m just observing from 3,000 miles away,” Black said before the Rockies’ 7-0 rain-shortened win over the Royals on Sunday afternoon at Las Vegas Ballpark. “But I think he might have gotten caught up in the moment. 

“He’s pitching for his country in front of a big crowd. He only had three or four outings with us this spring and Daniel’s got a lot of moving parts in his delivery. He was just out of whack.”

It isn’t unusual for even the best relievers to have up-and-down stretches in their careers. This can be seen even across an unusual career arc like Bard’s -- after his National League Comeback Player of the Year campaign in 2020, he posted a 5.21 ERA the following season before his outstanding performance in ’22.

But if Bard’s yips are, indeed, back, it will put enormous strain on the back end of Colorado’s bullpen, with a mix of veterans trying to reestablish themselves and unproven youngsters who will have to cobble innings together late in games.