FORT MYERS, Fla. - The Red Sox very badly wanted Daniel Bard to prove this spring that he could make a successful transition from the bullpen to the rotation. But it wasn’t until he went out to stretch Sunday morning that Bard knew for sure he had done it. That’s when manager Bobby Valentine told him the good news.
Bard had a 6.57 earned run average in six games, but showed enough potential to merit the switch. He will be the No. 5 starter to open the season, with lefthander Felix Doubront the No. 4.
Alfredo Aceves was returned to the bullpen and Aaron Cook will open the season with Triple A Pawtucket.
“Everybody who was kind of a candidate for these rotation spots had a great spring,’’ Bard said. “I had the worst spring statistically, but I feel like I showed them enough where they see the light at the end of the tunnel for me and that’s kind of what I’ve been looking at, too. That shows the confidence they have in me to see it through.’’
Said Valentine: “Daniel Bard came in and progressed exactly the way we hoped he would progress. We just felt that it was, at this time, the right thing to do.’’
The 24-year-old Doubront earned his spot on performance, posting a 2.70 ERA during camp.
“That’s what I was looking forward to all spring,’’ Doubront said. “To hear that news, that was pretty amazing.’’
Doubront, who is out of minor league options, has appeared in 23 major league games, three of them starts, over two seasons.
“Felix, I think, had the best spring of anyone, obviously, if you just went on results,’’ Valentine said. “He also progressed the way we hoped he would progress physically and mentally, to the point where we think he can be a very good major league starting pitcher.’’
Bard said he tried not to think too much about the future when he pitched.
“A couple of weeks ago, I decided I’m going to put in the work I need to and compete every five days when they give me the ball and let them make the decisions and not try and worry about it too much. It’s actually been pretty easy on me,’’ he said.
Now that he’s a starter, Bard is actually glad he had a few rocky outings.
“That’s really good practice for me for what’s going to happen during the season,’’ he said. “You give up two or three in the first, it’s not like it was before for me when my day’s over and the game’s about over. I’ve got to grind out five or six more innings. I’ll take the rough ERA now and the learning experiences to make it count when the games start to count.’’
Given that Bard pitched only 73 innings last season and Doubront 87 2/3 (10 1/3 majors, 77 1/3 minors), the Red Sox are sure to need rotation depth.
“You’ve got to see how it goes. I’ll be in communication with them as to how I’m feeling,’’ Bard said.
On a roll
The Sox (14-11-4) clinched a winning record in spring training with a 5-1 victory against the Twins. They are 4-1-1 in their last six games.
Cody Ross drove in a run with a double in the sixth inning, giving him 16 RBIs on the spring. Ryan Sweeney added an RBI single, Mike Aviles an RBI double, and Jacoby Ellsbury an RBI triple.
Vicente Padilla, Scott Atchison, and Justin Thomas combined for five shutout innings.
The Sox took the spring series from the Twins, 4-2, to regain the coveted Fort Myers Mayor’s Cup.
The Red Sox used a lineup of Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, Ross, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Sweeney, and Aviles.
That looks like a potential Opening Day lineup. But Valentine would not tip his hand.
“I bet that’s a lineup you’re going to see during the season,’’ he said. “I haven’t totally looked at matchups and all that stuff. Those are pretty good players, though. I’ll take my chances with that lineup.’’
Major League Baseball contacted Valentine regarding the lineup the Red Sox took to Port Charlotte for Saturday’s game against the Rays. Only four players on the 40-man roster - reserves Darnell McDonald and Kelly Shoppach and relievers Michael Bowden and Franklin Morales - participated. Major League guidelines require teams to field spring training lineups that include four position players and one pitcher who are regulars. The idea is preserve the integrity of the games for fans. Valentine said Saturday that he had no problem bringing a skeleton lineup on the road given some of the lineups he saw from visiting teams at JetBlue Park . . . Pedro Ciriaco doubled in the seventh inning. He has eight extra-base hits in 41 at-bats this spring after 12 in 277 at-bats for Triple A Indianapolis last season . . . Catcher Ryan Lavarnway was optioned to Pawtucket . . . The Sox play the Nationals at JetBlue Park Monday afternoon then fly to Washington to face the Nats again Tuesday.Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.