The sad saga of Daniel Bard’s demise took what seemed to be an inevitable step Sunday, with the Red Sox designating the righthander for assignment to make room for veteran infielder John McDonald, acquired in a deal with the Phillies Saturday night.
Bard, who simply hasn’t been able to find the plate with any consistency in the minor leagues, is now in a 10-day limbo in which he has to go through waivers. If he is claimed, the Red Sox could let him go to the claiming team or try to work out a deal with that team. If there are no claims he could return to the Sox, but off the 40-man roster.
Once considered the best setup man in baseball, the decision to risk losing Bard was a tough one for the Red Sox, said manager John Farrell.
“Given what he’s been able to do in the past and dealing with the struggles with consistency that are there, unfortunately he’s in the position he’s in,” Farrell said. “He won’t be able to pitch in Lowell until the waiver period expires. If he’s still in the organization — and we would hope that would be the case unless some other team puts in a claim and works out a trade for him — we haven’t turned our back on him and yet we needed the roster spot and hopefully that will get Daniel back on track and what he was at the big league level, which was a dominant [pitcher].
“Any time there’s a human side of it, I don’t know if you can fully separate the two on a roster decision. It’s frustrating for all of us and no less frustrating for Daniel to go through the challenges that he’s been faced with. It’s an ongoing battle right now.”
At his best, Bard was lights out. He seemed destined to become the team’s closer, but he pushed for a spot in the starting rotation last season and that didn’t work.
“The weapon he emerged as and the flexibility Tito [Francona] had to use him in the seventh and eighth innings, in many ways he had the tougher job than the closer on many nights,” Farrell said. “To have that kind of power and ease in which he threw, the breaking ball he had in addition to 98-100 m.p.h. . . . for two years he was as good as there was in the game.”
Farrell was on board with Bard being on his way to succeeding Jonathan Papelbon as the team’s closer.
“Everything pointed toward that,” Farrell said. “The fact there was a decision made — whether it was Daniel’s preference to start vs. close, it’s unfortunate things couldn’t continue as a late-inning guy given the success he had.”
Farrell knew there were problems regarding Bard when he returned to the team as manager. He thought it was a combination of delivery and confidence issues.
“We thought performance led to confidence,” Farrell said. “There were outings in spring training where he wasn’t too far off form, what he’d been a year or two prior. As he was building momentum in spring training we thought there was one step yet to make in terms of power and consistency. It looked like he was on his way, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. I’m sure he’s disappointed but I haven’t spoken to him.”
McDonald showed up before the game after coming in from Chicago, where he left the Phillies in the deal that brought the Scituate resident home.
“It’s a very comfortable situation to walk into,” McDonald said. “Obviously where we are in the standings, that’s a good place to be. It’s where everyone wants to be, first place right now. So just try and contribute and do my part.”
McDonald said he wasn’t thinking about being dealt.
“Not really, just coming to the ballpark, trying to prepare,’’ he said. “When you’re out of a race I guess in the back of your mind you hope that you’ll get the opportunity to go somewhere to play in a pennant race, especially as you put more years in the game and you know you don’t have as many years left, everyone wants that opportunity to be part of a team that’s going into October.”
As for coming home he said, “My daughter was very excited last night. She can’t wait for me to come home and hang out and then put her to bed tonight. Everyone’s pretty excited. But growing up in Connecticut they’re happy to have me back in New England, it’s just the Yankee fans, they’re on the other side of the fence. But growing up in New England, and getting to play in Fenway, and to put this uniform on today, it’s pretty awesome.”
The Red Sox also called up four players from Triple A Pawtucket — outfielder Quintin Berry, third baseman Brandon Snyder, catcher Ryan Lavarnway, and pitcher Rubby De La Rosa.
Berry, 28, who was acquired from the Royals in a trade Tuesday for righthander Clayton Mortensen, will be used as a pinch runner mostly.
All told, Berry batted .193 with 10 doubles, a triple, three homers, 31 RBIs, and 50 walks in Triple A for the Tigers, Royals, and two games at Pawtucket. He has combined to steal 30 bases in 34 attempts this season for an 88.2 percent success rate. Berry made his major league debut with the Tigers in 2012 and was successful in all 21 stolen base attempts.
“We were looking for this type of player to round out our roster,” Farrell said.
Lavarnway will be used as a third catcher/pinch hitter while De La Rosa could see some mop-up action or come in when the team is behind. More players are expected to get the call after the playoffs for Pawtucket.