The Sox sent Daniel Bard to AAA Pawtucket yesterday, activating Darnell McDonald off the DL. In Bard's last start, he only managed to go 1.2 innings, allowing 5 runs off 6 walks and a homerun. In 55 innings, he's walked 37, struck out 34, and has an ERA of 5.24 and a WHIP of 1.62. As a reliever last year, he had a 3.33 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP. He only walked 24 in 73 innings.
It's not working for him as a starter. Everyone knows it. Even him. He wants to work out his problems up here in Boston. The Sox want him to work them out in Pawtucket. Frankly, the Sox can't afford his struggles anymore. It's June, the Sox are one game over .500, they're trying to go on a run to separate themselves from the tightly packed AL East. Now's not the time for Bard to work out his problems in games that count in the standings.
I think the Sox know that the starting experiment is over. They won't come out and say it publicly. But their plan for Bard in Pawtucket involves him throwing some 2 inning stints. Doesn't that sound like they'll be converting him to a reliever?
If they really wanted him to continue to start, they might have sent him down to Fort Myers to pitch some simulated games, to focus entirely on his mechanics and not worry about getting hitters out.
Meanwhile, Bard will likely be replaced in the rotation by Matsuzaka. And if Matsuzaka pitches well, and if Buchholz continues to pitch well, the Sox can tell Bard that there's no more room in the rotation, so he might as well go to the pen. If Matsuzaka falters, or another starter gets hurt, the Sox can continue to tinker with Bard.
The Sox are saying that Bard is dropping his arm slot, and that's affecting his performance. Sounds reasonable. I'm not a pitching coach. All I know is that his fastball is slower, he's not pitching to contact, and he only has 2 of his 3 pitches working on any given night. If he can solve those problems, he can start. But maybe those problems are always going to be unsolvable for Bard. Some pitchers just aren't meant to be starters. The Sox tried to make him one when he was first drafted. It didn't work. Too many walks. It's not working now, either.
The Sox bullpen isn't as good as people think it is. There is room for Bard out there. In 2 weeks, the Sox will have an idea what Matsuzaka can give them. They'll also know which relievers they want to keep and which one they're willing to let go. Bard can work on his mechanics, and maybe he'll figure it all out and return to the rotation in glory. More likely, he'll return to the bullpen where he's thrived in the past.