Scouts perk up when the pair takes the mound. Going into Friday night at Dodger Stadium, Bard’s last four outings were scoreless and mostly painless -- .077 batting average. Givens entered with a 2.93 ERA in 29 outings. They can feel the scouts in the stands preparing their reports in advance of next Friday afternoon’s Trade Deadline.
There are reasons in both cases. Bard, who is the Rockies’ closer, but likely would be positioned against right-handed hitters (.164 average against) by a contending club, has another year of club control on his contract. Givens, a free agent at season’s end, has been used in pressure situations since breaking in with the Orioles under manager Buck Showalter in 2015.
“There are a lot of eyes on every game -- potential future employers, I guess,” said Bard, 36. “I just try to get lost in the competition every night.”
Givens, 31, is a year removed from a Deadline deal. The Rockies, believing they had a shot last year before the second half crumbled, acquired him from the Orioles for two prospects.
“I’ve always been in trade talks and last year I was traded, and the same situation is upon me right now,” Givens said. “I'm here to play baseball. I'm here right now in purple and black. Until otherwise, I focus on being with the Rockies and trying to win ballgames and helping these guys and helping as much as I can.”
Interestingly, and without prompting, both said they are big on the future of their fellow Rockies relievers -- even though overall bullpen struggles have cost some games. The bullpen has a high number of rookies (currently righty Justin Lawrence, and lefties Lucas Gilbreath and Ben Bowden) and some others who have had inconsistent performances. While the Rockies try to protect late leads with Givens, Carlos Estévez and Bard, there have been stretches during which one or more hasn’t been available because of fatigue or soreness.
The season has been educational, and Givens and Bard enjoy teaching.
“Lawrence, Bowden, ‘Gilly’ try to pick my brain,” Givens said. “Lawrence, who throws from a similar arm slot as me, will ask me questions about mindset in certain situations. It’s been good. Sometimes young guys get shy. These guys are good and humble and eager to learn.”
Bard had solid starting and relief roles with the Red Sox before he lost his strike zone and confidence, which led eventually to him leaving the game and serving as a mental skills coach with the D-backs for two seasons. Now he sets, and shares with his teammates, examples of the mentality needed to handle tough situations.
“It’s like when I came in against San Diego before the break with a one-run lead in a save situation,” said Bard, who pinpointed Gilbreath and Bowden as players who not only are performing well, but are showing signs of true confidence. “If there is any nervousness, I just counter with, ‘I get to face three of the best hitters in the world, and I’m ready.’ I get to do that, and how many people in the world would kill to be in that situation?”
Any competitor wants a chance at the postseason, and Bard and Givens are no different. But they are energized by playing with an ambitious, if far from perfect, club.
“It’s a really good vibe, and I appreciate all these players having each other's back -- in a very young core,” Givens said. “They're not, we're not, far away. I saw that in the first half. We lost a lot of close games. We may be a couple guys away, but we’ve got guys that are really good and professional.”
Bard said when not wrapping himself in the day-to-day existence of a relief pitcher, he is touched by what the last two seasons with the Rockies have meant to him.
“Since my time with Boston, this is the longest I’ve been with one team, or at least I’ve been here as long as I worked with the D-backs,” Bard said. “These guys have supported me from day one.
“I found out Trevor Story [a shortstop also dealing with trade rumors] was one of the reasons I made the team last year -- something I didn’t know until a month later. He said things to the coaches like, ‘This guy has to make the team.’ The pitching coaches, Steve Foster and Darryl Scott, didn’t have to pick me. I’ve just tried to prove them right.”