PAWTUCKET — From his dugout vantage point, Rich Sauveur saw something in Daniel Bard’s delivery that was fixable while the pitcher was toeing the rubber – providing that the PawSox pitching coach could grab the attention of catcher Ryan Lavarnway.
Clearly the message Sauveur wished to convey to Bard was relayed in proper fashion, as Lavarnway informed the pitcher during Monday night’s appearance to bring his right arm up a bit. Sauveur believed that by elevating his release point, it would enable Bard to have better and sharper command of his fastball, an area that has been cause for concern for so much of the season.
Sauveur’s epiphany came after Bard allowed a single and a walk to the first two Gwinnett hitters in the sixth inning. Quickly processing what he was told, Bard retired the next three Braves to lend credence to what Sauveur’s eyes caught.
“After the first two hitters (Monday), I thought his fastball improved tremendously,” noted Sauveur on Tuesday. “We watched some video in order to make sure his arm is up from the get go the next time out.”
On that subject, Bard will pitch in relief on Thursday night when Pawtucket kicks off an eight-game road trip in Buffalo. PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler mentioned that the possibility exists that Bard could be stretched to two innings, which would represent a spike in his workload after totaling two innings between his first two mound assignments with Pawtucket.
Sauveur demonstrated what he was asking Bard to do by raising his own arm. “He was getting on top of the ball instead of slinging it. I
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didn’t ask him to raise his arm more than a few degrees, but it was noticeable. I think it helped him with his command. His accuracy improved and he was able to locate his fastball that much better.”
Beyeler was able to separate Bard’s outing into what transpired prior to Sauveur’s discovery and what happened once everything clicked, which included a groundout and back-to-back strikeouts against the heart of Gwinnett’s lineup.
“He didn’t hit any right-handed hitters,” said Beyeler, harkening back to last Friday when Bard plunked two of the first three Indianapolis hitters he faced. “I didn’t care if he gave up four or six runs (Monday). He threw strikes and that’s a step.
“He got to the slider and was able to put guys away with the pitch and came back to throw some fastballs that were in the zone,” Beyeler delved further. “That’s confidence and the bottom line is that he’s got to throw and feel good about it. You’re dealing with a guy who’s not very confident right now and for good reason, but he’s a big leaguer and has been through this before. He’s going to go out there and do everything he can in order to get that feel back.”
Having worked with Bard when he was a rising star in Boston’s farm system allows Beyeler and Sauveur to get on the pitcher’s level in no time at all. Beyeler managed Bard in Double-A Portland in 2008 while Sauveur was a passenger on the Bard Express that tore through Pawtucket during the month-and-a-half he spent with the ball club in 2009.
“It’s good us because we’re familiar with him, but whether it’s here or Fort Myers, he has to throw,” Beyeler said.
Added Sauveur, “I just think it’s easier for us because we can relate to him. He can talk to me and say, ‘You remember this or that.’”