Boston Red Sox Daniel Bard pitches against Tampa Bay Rays during American League MLB baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston

Daniel Bard on recent struggles: “It’s something I’ve fixed before and I’ll fix it again”

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Plenty of pitchers go through stretches of struggling to throw strikes, but Daniel Bard’s recent wildness is particularly worrisome because his career was nearly derailed by extreme control problems in the minors.

Bard walked 78 batters in 78 innings as a starter at Single-A in 2007, but moved to the bullpen the next season and has been a dominant reliever ever since.

However, after being unhittable for most of this year Bard has coughed up nine runs in his last three appearances while walking five of 17 batters.

For a guy who came into September with a 2.03 ERA and 63/15 K/BB ratio in 62 innings that’s not what the Red Sox want to see at this point in the season, but Bard told Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal that he’s confident about getting back on track:

The timing with my delivery is just not there. I can feel it on every pitch. Something feels a little bit different. I’ve been through it before. The effects of it are kind of magnified by how big these games are. Sometimes you go out there and your mechanics are kind of off and you get through an inning when they swing at a few pitches out the zone and it gets you back in it. Unfortunately for me, they haven’t been doing that lately. It’s something I’ve fixed before, and I’ll fix it again. I’ll do what it takes the next couple of days to put in the work and find my delivery again.

Hopefully he’s right, although as Bard noted there’s a big difference between fixing mechanical and control problems at Single-A and doing the same in the majors, in September, with every appearance coming in a crucial spot.

Report: Extension talks between Mets, Neil Walker are “probably dead”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: Neil Walker #20 of the New York Mets sits in the dugout before the game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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On Sunday, it was reported that second baseman Neil Walker and the Mets were discussing a potential three-year contract extension worth “north of $40 million.” Those discussions took a turn for the worse. The Mets feel extension talks are “probably dead,” according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.

Walker underwent a lumbar microdisectomy in September, ending his 2016 season during which he hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 home runs and 55 RBI over 458 plate appearances.

The Mets may not necessarily need to keep Walker around as it has some potential options up the middle waiting in the minor leagues. Though Amed Rosario is expected to stick at shortstop, Gavin Cecchini — the club’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline — could shift over to second base.

Rick Ankiel drank vodka before a start to deal with the yips

9 Apr 2000: Rick Ankiel #66 of the St. Louis Cardinals winds back to pitch the ball during the game against the Milwaukee Brweers at the Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals defeated the Brewers 11-2. Mandatory Credit: Elsa Hasch  /Allsport
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The story of Rick Ankiel is well known by now. He was a phenom pitcher who burst onto the scene with the Cardinals in 1999 and into the 2000 season as one of the top young talents in the game. Then, in the 2000 playoffs, he melted down. He got the yips. Whatever you want to call it, he lost the ability to throw strikes and his pitching career was soon over. He came back, however, against all odds, and remade his career as a solid outfielder.

It’s inspirational and incredible. But there is a lot more to the story that we’ve ever known. We will soon, however, as Ankiel is coming out with a book. Today he took to the airwaves and shared some about it. Including some amazing stuff:

On drinking in his first start after the famous meltdown in Game One of the 2000 National League division series against the Braves:

“Before that game…I’m scared to death. I know I have no chance. Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Low and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted. I’m sitting on the bench feeling crazy I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game. (I had never drank before a game before). It was one of those things like the yipps, the monster, the disease…it didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”

Imagine spending your whole life getting to the pinnacle of your career. Then imagine it immediately disintegrating. And then imagine having to go out and do it again in front of millions. It’s almost impossible for anyone to contemplate and, as such, it’s hard to judge almost anything Ankiel did in response to that when he was 21 years-old. That Ankiel got through that and made a career for himself is absolutely amazing. It’s a testament to his drive and determination.