10 years later, Bard comes up big in return to Fenway

June 13th, 2023

BOSTON -- Rockies reliever vowed to love Fenway Park again.

Bard recalls coming up from Charlotte for family vacations, trips to games organized by his grandfather and stories about what the place meant to his dad. Then Bard grew up to be a Red Sox pitcher.

But work stuff got in the way of the legend of a park that opened in 1912, earlier than any other in use.

“I felt it before,” Bard said Monday afternoon. “I came to games as a kid. It plays a role in so many movies and baseball history. I love the history. But when you play here every day, you take it for granted a little. You start to pay attention to the bad plumbing, the tiny lockers, rather than how cool it is.

“This time around, for sure, I don’t care about any of that.”

Bard’s roller-coaster but effective ninth inning -- which earned him the win in the Rockies’ 4-3, 10-inning, rain-delayed victory over the Red Sox on two unearned runs in the top of the 10th on Monday night -- also gave him a fresh, good memory at the site of so much youthful fondness.

“My grandfather, Fran O’Brien, coached college baseball up here, at MIT and Holy Cross,” Bard said. “So he took me to some games here as a kid. He had a bunch of Red Sox memorabilia in his house, being a lifelong baseball guy from the Boston area. There were a lot of ties to this team even before I got drafted by them.

“To be able to play four years here was pretty cool for me, personally, and for my family. My dad, Paul Bard, grew up in this area, too.”

With the Red Sox, Bard was mostly excellent, posting a 3.67 ERA with the team, including a 2.88 ERA in 192 appearances from 2009-11. Entering Monday's contest, Bard had a 2.18 ERA in 99 games at Fenway. The last one came on April 27, 2013, when he entered in the eighth against the Astros and threw just one strike on nine pitches to two batters, before one of the walks came around to score in an 8-4 Red Sox loss. But why dwell on that?

“There were a lot more good memories than negative, so that’s where my mind is at -- just enjoying it,” Bard said.

After his 2013 struggles, Bard descended into control problems and Minor League contracts that didn’t lead to a big league jobs. Bard said that after leaving the Red Sox, he had not been back to Fenway before Monday. He’s only been back to Boston a couple of times, including this offseason after O’Brien passed away.

Bard began this season on the injured list with anxiety after a rough spring that included a poor World Baseball Classic. The biggest issue has been settling his mechanics to find the 98 mph fastball that led the Rockies to sign him to a two-year, $19 million extension through 2024. But even leaning harder on his slider and doing his best with a fastball a couple ticks below optimal velocity, Bard has been effective most of the time.

“We’re pushing Daniel a bit because we think things are coming together for him,” said Rockies manager Bud Black, whose team benefited from six innings and six strikeouts from starter and fellow Red Sox castoff Connor Seabold.

Opposing hitters entered Monday batting .100 with a .250 on-base percentage against Bard in high-leverage situations. He said recently that even with his inconsistent fastball, he feels more confident when there’s more on the line.

Bard walked leadoff man Adam Duvall in the ninth, but then induced a Triston Casas double-play grounder. Christian Arroyo doubled off the Green Monster, but Bard coaxed a Connor Wong bouncer that shortstop Ezequiel Tovar dug up. First baseman Elehuris Montero handled the throw.

“That’s been the story of my outings lately,” Bard said. “I’ve been in a place where I’m not perfect, but I’m comfortable working through some traffic. Even when I miss with a pitch, I come back and make a good one on the next pitch. That’s really the name of it when you’re pitching late.”

The previous two games, after some struggles by Pierce Johnson, who opened the season as the closer, Black planned his bullpen usage around using Justin Lawrence in closing situations. On Monday, Lawrence warmed up before the 10th-inning delay, so the Rockies went with Matt Carasiti -- who is back in the Majors for the first time since 2019, writing his own comeback story -- for his first career Major League save.

“There’s a lot of flexibility, and the other nice thing is you have a lot of guys who are throwing the ball well who don’t have an ego about what role they’re throwing in,” Bard said.