Daniel Bard

Daniel Bard can be the new Derek Lowe for Boston


And that’s meant in a good way.

Derek Lowe saved 42 games for the Red Sox in 2000 and then struggled some the next year, losing his closer’s role in the process. The Red Sox opted to try him as a starter at the end of the season, and when he transitioned into that role fully in 2002, he nearly won a Cy Young Award. He finished 21-8 with a 2.58 ERA in 219 2/3 innings that season, and while he was never so good again, he’s been a quality starting pitcher for a decade now.

This isn’t the first time since that the Red Sox have tried to turn one of their most important relievers into a starting pitcher. They groomed Jonathan Papelbon as a starter in the spring of 2007, only to shift him back to the pen late in the spring. Now they want to try it again with Daniel Bard, a starting pitcher in college who only found success in the minors after being moved to the pen.

That’s the scary part about the transition. Bard was a complete bust after one year in the Boston system, going 3-7 with a 7.08 ERA and a 47/78 K/BB ratio in 75 innings in his 22 starts in 2007. The Red Sox moved him to the pen the next spring and he thrived right away. He debuted in the majors in 2009 and has a 2.88 ERA and a 213/76 K/BB ratio in 197 innings since.

But, really, there’s no reason to think he lost in 2007 because he was starting. He was a bust because his mechanics were terrible, and he also seemed intimidated by the crazy hitting environment at Lancaster, the toughest place to pitch in the minors.

Perhaps that doesn’t speak well of Bard’s mental toughness, but 2007 was five years ago now. He’s succeeded at the highest level of competition. Perhaps even more important, he’s a far more complete pitcher now than he was when he was drafted. His slider has turned into a very good second pitch, and his changeup has also come a long way, even though he doesn’t get to use it too much as a reliever.

Obviously, Bard isn’t Lowe. Lowe has always relied on a sinker to get outs. Bard is still going to try to overpower hitters, even though his velocity figures to decline from 96-99 mph as a reliever to 93-97 mph as a starter.

But Bard should be plenty good as a starting pitcher, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him make the same kind of impact C.J. Wilson did in Texas when he made the conversion two years ago. The Red Sox could always change their minds later and throw him back in the pen as a setup man or a closer. But if there’s ever a time to move him, this is it, and it would make sense to give him at least a few months to prove himself.

Red Sox sports medicine director says David Ortiz “was essentially playing on stumps”

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 1: David Ortiz #34 of the Boston Red Sox tips his helmet to the crowd as he exits the game after he singled during the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park on October 1, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)
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David Ortiz had a whale of a final season with the Red Sox. It was so good that he was asked, many, many times, if he was thinking of reversing his retirement decision and coming back for 2017. Ortiz always said no, he was still retiring, occasionally making mention of his aching feet and the physical grind his 40-year-old body was undergoing.

We now know just how much of a grind it was. Indeed, it was extreme. We know this because Dan Dyrek, the Red Sox’ coordinator of sports medicine services, tells it to Rob Bradford of WEEI. Dyrek says that the injuries to Ortiz’s feet, which were often referred to as achilles tendon problems, were way, way more complicated than that, affecting every muscle, bone and tendon in his feet in chain reaction fashion. Dyrek:

“He was essentially playing on stumps. Instead of having this nice, flexible, foot, ankle, calf mechanism to act as a shock absorber, he was playing on stumps. And you can do that for only so long. He was in warrior mode trying to play through this. Once we diagnosed him and saw what was going on and started explaining things to him, there was actually a sense of relief because now he had an explanation of what he was in such excruciating pain.”

That Ortiz was able to even walk through what Dyrek describes is pretty amazing. That he was able to put up a near-MVP season with all of that pain is incredible.

Charlie Sheen would like to throw out the first pitch at a World Series game

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 21:  Actor Charlie Sheen attends Meghan Trainor's performance on NBC's "Today" at Rockefeller Plaza on June 21, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
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For all of the ups and downs of his personal and professional life, Charlie Sheen is and always has been a passionate baseball fan. Sheen once bought out an entire section of bleachers for an Angels game so he could catch a home run ball (he didn’t catch a home run ball). He starred in “Eight Men Out” and, more notably, “Major League.” That latter film earned him the love and admiration of Indians fans which lasts to this day.

Indeed, the love continues to be so great that, right after the Indians clinched the American League pennant, they began lobbying for Sheen to throw out the first pitch of a World Series game in Cleveland.  Yesterday afternoon Sheen took to Twitter, posted a pic of his baseball alter ego, and said that, if called upon, he would serve:

While it’s a big broad comedy, the scene in “Major League” in which Sheen comes out of the bullpen to “Wild Thing” blaring and the fans going nuts is legitimately chill-inducing. The fans at Progressive Field are already going to be amped up for the World Series as it is, but imagine how nuts the place would be if they recreated that scene.

Do it, Indians!

UPDATE: Wait, on reflection, don’t do it, Indians. Sheen is sort of a Trumpian figure in that his high profile craziness often causes us to momentarily forget his legitimate badness. We don’t need a guy like that tossing out the first pitch at the World Series.