I told Ben [Cherington] when I heard [John] Lackey was having surgery and [Tim Wakefield] is a free agent, I saw two openings in the starting rotation. The last two years I haven't said it much, but in my own head, just watching the guys in this league that have had a lot of success in a starting role, I just felt like I could do that. I've got as good or better raw stuff as them. I try to keep myself in good shape. I felt like everything I have at this point, that I could have success in that role. So, I told Ben that.The Red Sox have kept a watchful eye on Bard's workload for the past two season and he has pitched 74.2 (1,131 pitches) and 73 innings (1,095 pitches) in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
Then when [Jonathan Papelbon] signed with the Phillies, it was maybe a week or two after that, I kind of figured that whole starter thing would kind of subside. They may forget it even happened. I just figured once Pap was gone they wouldn't be taking me out of the 'pen as well. But it turns out they feel pretty strongly about me trying to be a starter, and I do, too.
If the team is serious about him starting - and it could be just a bluff re the trade market - it is questionable whether he can double his innings pitched without experiencing arm trouble.
With Bard in the running for a spot in the rotation, Bobby Valentine says Mark Melancon (who rooted for the Red Sox growing up in Denver pre-Rockies) is the frontrunner for the closer's job. Melancon's former manager, Houston's Brad Mills, says the 26-year-old has the stuff to be successful in the AL East.
Once he sees that his stuff can play, and it is good enough to do it, once he sees it, then he'll take the ball and run with it.Melancon developed a cutter towards the end of last season and did not allow any runs in his last 11 appearances, giving up only three hits in 11.2 innings, while notching 15 strikeouts.
The team has been calling around on other relievers as well, including Kansas City's Joakim Soria and Oakland's Andrew Bailey. They have also been talking to free agents Joe Saunders and Ryan Madson.
Ben Cherington on Nick Punto:
Nick's a guy we've had interest in in the past and the timing has never quite worked out to get him here. He's a guy who plays really good defense, a smart baseball player. He gives you a good at-bat. He's really good in the clubhouse. He's just a smart, smart baseball player who understands his role on a winning team."He gives you a good at-bat" is what you say when a player stays up there for eight pitches or so but finally makes an out. He saw some pitches, and maybe the pitcher worked a touch more than usual, but Punto has no power, so he's not gonna dong ... and anyway, it's still an out. It's the baseball equivalent of "She's got a nice personality".