It doesn’t say much for his overall status that this is actually semi-newsworthy, but here goes: Daniel Bard threw two scoreless innings at Triple-A yesterday.
Working as a reliever Bard struck out four batters, walked one, and allowed zero hits in two frames for Pawtucket, lowering his ERA there to 9.00 ERA in four outings.
On one hand an impressive two-inning appearance is a big step in the right direction for Bard. On the other hand throwing two innings, no matter how impressive, seemingly indicates that he won’t be ready to jump back into the Red Sox’s rotation anytime soon. Or at least not without having pitch count limitations.
Returning to the majors as a reliever, however, could occur at any time and ultimately considering how shaky Bard looked transitioning from the bullpen to the rotation he might be better off if that happens anyway.
On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”
There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.
It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:
On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.
“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”
One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.
None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”