Given the fact that it was Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein who invested a first-round pick in Daniel Bard back in 2006 when Epstein was still in charge of the Red Sox’ front office, Sox manager John Farrell said he wasn’t surprised by the news that the Cubs claimed Bard off waivers Wednesday.
Once a lights-out setup man for the Sox, the 28-year-old righthander was derailed by injury and confidence issues, struggling to regain the form that helped him record 79 holds in his first three seasons.
Bard’s decline started last season as he transitioned to a role in the Red Sox starting rotation. He went 4-6 as a starter, never completely making the adjustment, and he was demoted to Triple A Pawtucket in June.
In 16 minor league appearances this season between Double A Portland, Single A Lowell, and the Gulf Coast League, Bard gave up 13 runs on 14 hits in 15⅓ innings, walking 27 and throwing 11 wild pitches.
He was designated for assignment Sunday. Farrell said he still believed Bard could be successful again, but the need for a roster spot made it necessary to part ways.
“I guess the most important thing is we wish him well,” Farrell said. “We hope he gets back on track. There’s still a good pitcher in there once he gets back on track, we believe.
“I’m not going to say that he can’t. There’s still a player and a pitcher there that is motivated, and yet any time that there’s activity disrupted by an injury, it’s going to slow that process. Time was of the essence with us, needing a roster space.”
Farrell wasn’t certain how long it would take Bard to get back on track.
“Based on what we saw over the past couple of years, it needs to be built back gradually,” he said. “However long that takes is the unknown in this.”
Yankees on deck
The last time the Red Sox saw the Yankees, Aug. 18 at Fenway Park, Ryan Dempster’s plunking of Alex Rodriguez seemed to fuel New York to an intense 9-6 win.
With the Yankees creeping back into the playoff picture, the game might have been a springboard.
Since then the Yankees had gone 10-5 entering Wednesday night, hopping over the Orioles for third place in the division and going from six games behind in the wild-card race to just 2½ back.
Farrell said he’s kept an eye on the race as the Sox prepare for a four-game set at Yankee Stadium beginning Thursday night.
“I know that it’s tightened up,” Farrell said. “But I think what we’ve done a very good job of is just focusing on what’s in front of us, and that’s tonight and Detroit and not New York, which will be tomorrow when it gets here.”
The Yankees had won eight of their past nine home games entering Wednesday night and 16 of their past 23 overall.
The one issue they’ve avoided addressing all season — the struggles of starting pitcher Phil Hughes — was dealt with Wednesday when manager Joe Girardi announced that David Huff will take Hughes’s place in the rotation and pitch Saturday against John Lackey.
Ivan Nova will take the mound Thursday against Jake Peavy, Andy Pettitte will face Felix Doubront Friday, and Hiroki Kuroda will face Jon Lester Sunday.
The soreness in Jacoby Ellsbury’s left hand that forced him to sit out Tuesday night’s game will be a lingering issue, Farrell said, but Ellsbury returned to the linuep Wednesday night.
He hit his eighth home run of the season in the third inning to tie the game at 3. The Sox rolled, 20-4.
“He needed that one day just to let some of the swelling subside somewhat,” Farrell said. “We don’t expect him to be completely over it. This is something he’s going to have to manage and he’s doing just that.”
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia continued to rest his sore lower back, sitting out for the second straight night. Farrell said Saltalamachcia will rest again Thursday when the Sox open up their series with the Yankees.
“[He] improved today, but he’s still down probably through tomorrow at a minimum,” Farrell said. “But he feels better and is responding to the treatment that he’s getting.”
Clay Buchholz’s unofficial paternity leave lasted one day. He was able to see the birth of his second daughter, Colbi, Wednesday.
Because of the baby’s arrival, Buchholz’s third rehab start was pushed back a day to Thursday. He headed to Rochester, N.Y. to meet the Pawtucket Red Sox for the second game of their playoff series against the Rochester Red Wings.
Buchholz will return to Boston Friday before joining the Sox in New York.
Farrell said no decisions have been made about how Buchholz will be re-inserted into the starting rotation.