Red Sox

Red Sox

When last we saw Daniel Bard, he was walking two batters on nine pitches in April of 2013 against the Astros. That was his last big league appearance, and though it was enough to earn him a World Series ring, for a long time it looked like it would be his disheartening swan song.

But seven years later, Bard hasn't given up on his dream, and at age 35, he is making a case to the do the improbable.

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On Monday, Bard retired all three batters he faced at Coors Field as part of an intrasquad scrimmage with the Rockies, prompting this observation from Nick Groke of the Athletic: "Bard looks good. Rockies are very pleased. Seems to be pitching his way to opening day."

If he makes it, it would be the ultimate triumph of perseverance. Bard's story is well-known to Red Sox fans, but a brief recap: He reached the majors in 2009 as a flame-throwing setup man, and he looked like Jonathan Papelbon's successor after posting a 1.93 ERA in 73 appearances as a setup man in 2010.

He threw 100 mph, he showed no fear in big situations, and it appeared he'd be a fixture for at least five or six years.

He went 2-9 and was disturbingly ineffective down the stretch in 2011, but no one noticed because the team was collapsing around him. Then came the disastrous decision to move to the starting rotation under Bobby Valentine in 2012. Bard developed the yips and couldn't find the plate, his nadir coming on June 3 in Toronto when he walked six, hit two, and sent multiple pitches to the backstop.

 

That started an odyssey through the minors that included an ERA of 175.50 at Single A with the Rangers in 2014 (0.2 IP, 13 R, 0 H, 9 BB, 7 HBP), a year off for surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome, and failed minor league stints with the Cardinals and Mets.

He once again struggled to find the plate at spring training in February and March with the Rockies, allowing seven runs in 2.1 innings while walking three, but manager Bud Black has been impressed with the way the ball has left his hand, which means there's a chance he makes the opening day roster and completes a comeback seven years in the making.