When the Red Sox optioned righthanded reliever Daniel Bard to Double A Portland on March 28, it looked like a sign that he would be in the minors for at least several months working to regain his form after a disastrous 2012 season.
But Bard will return to the major leagues on Wednesday after only eight appearances with the Sea Dogs. He was informed on Tuesday night after the Sox optioned Steven Wright to Pawtucket.
Bard was 0-1 with a 4.00 earned run average in Portland. But his last five outings have been better. Over six innings, Bard has allowed one unearned run on five hits and three walks. He has struck out three.
Scouts have said his fastball command is better and that Bard is pitching much more like the relief ace he was before he was made into a starter last season. That led to a loss of velocity, command, and eventually a return to the minors.
Portland pitching coach Bob Kipper, who was a good influence on Bard earlier in his career, helped him again.
“Just been simplifying everything,” Bard told the Portland Press Herald after being told of his promotion. “I think I’ve made some good strides through spring training and this was a chance to build on what we did.
“There was no better guy to do it with than Kip. He’s got a simple message. He preaches a simple delivery and a simply approach. It’s what I’ve been successful with in the past and it’s what I got locked into here the last few weeks.”
Bard pitched a scoreless inning for Portland on Tuesday against Binghamton, throwing eight of his 10 pitches for strikes.
Lackey set to return
John Lackey pitched a solid 3⅔ innings for Portland Monday night, not giving up any runs and striking out five. He was back at Fenway Tuesday and is scheduled to throw in the bullpen Thursday. His next start will be Sunday, and it sounds likely that it will be against the Astros.
“Provided he comes out of that, which we fully expect him to come out of that OK, we’ll have an update on where his next start would be, and the potential to start here for us is a real one,” manager John Farrell said.
Alfredo Aceves, who replaced Lackey in the rotation, allowed seven earned runs in 3⅓ innings on Tuesday in a 13-0 loss against Oakland. He has allowed 12 earned runs over 13⅓ innings as a starter.
Lackey thought his appearance in Portland was enough of a rehab and that he is ready to return. The righthander went on the disabled list after straining his right biceps in a game against Toronto April 6.
“I definitely wasn’t throwing as hard, but location was pretty good,” Lackey said. “Felt like I got some swing-and-misses, which is a good sign. I felt like I was locating the ball pretty good. Arm strength will come with just some reps.”
Lackey pitched well in his one start this season, giving up two runs on five hits in 4⅓ innings against Toronto before the injury. He struck out eight in that game and showed good velocity on his fastball.
Farrell said the Sox would make sure they have long relief available behind Lackey on Sunday. He would probably not pitch more than five innings.
Lefthanded reliever Craig Breslow did not get an out in his rehab appearance at Portland. He faced four batters in the first inning and allowed three hits and a walk. He was charged with three runs.
Only 12 of 23 pitches were strikes in cold and rainy conditions.
Breslow, who is on the disabled list with a sore shoulder, returned to Fenway Park after the game and said he felt fine. It was more a matter of being rusty.
“Physically I felt pretty good. The results need to be better,” Breslow said. “The fact that I’m evaluating myself by baseball standards is probably a good thing for my health. But not getting anybody out is not going to cut it.”
Breslow is scheduled to pitch for Triple A Pawtucket this weekend, probably on Saturday.
Andrew Miller, who has struggled with his control all season, is the only lefthander in the Red Sox bullpen. That makes Breslow a potentially important addition.
A third lefthanded reliever, Franklin Morales, is on the disabled list recovering from a spring training back injury and recently missed an appearance because of a sore pectoral muscle.
Ortiz gets a break
David Ortiz got a day off after going 6 for 12 with two RBIs in three games.
“Not hurting,” Farrell said. “Scheduled down day. Combination with the weather conditions. This was kind of a logical day.”
Ortiz was 7 of 48 against Oakland starter Bartolo Colon with 15 strikeouts. That also played into the decision.
The Sox were never under the assumption that Ortiz would play every day.
“His guide in this and his involvement will go a long way in this. We’ve got to build in an occasional day off for him,” Farrell said.
Jacoby Ellsbury was 0 for 2 with a walk, ending his hit streak at 12 games. He has hit safely in 17 of the 20 games this season . . . The Sox have lost 3 of 4 after a 12-4 start. Jon Lester (3-0, 1.73) will be pitching this afternoon . . . Wright joined Jackie Bradley Jr., Allen Webster, and Alex Wilson as players who have made their major league debuts already this season. The Sox had three players make their debut all of last season . . . Jonny Gomes is on the regional cover of Sports Illustrated this week. The magazine has a piece on the resilience of Boston following the Marathon bombings . . . Farrell has a photo of his childhood idol, Tom Seaver, hanging in his office. It’s a shot from 1986 when Seaver finished his career with the Red Sox and made 16 starts.Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.