Part of the incredible story that was the comeback to Major League Baseball for Colorado Rockies reliever Daniel Bard happened in perhaps the strangest season in MLB history.
With just 60 games as part of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the 35-year-old Bard burst back onto the baseball scene in a big way. Establishing himself as the one of the “go-to” guys in the Rockies bullpen (and a veteran presence in a bullpen filled with less experienced players trying to establish themselves as the big league level), Bard earned National League Comeback Player of the Year honors with a 3.65 ERA and six saves in 24.2 innings pitched. Most importantly, he showed that any issue with “the yips” that had haunted him before his exit from baseball in 2013 and temporarily halted his dreams of returning to the mound.
The story of Bard’s return has been told time and time again, and Bard embraced it once more when he met the media, including Rox Pile, via Zoom on Saturday morning. However, it’s also important to not only look back at Bard’s success last season, but at the fact that it happened during a 60-game season.
So what happens when Daniel Bard continues to be a key piece of the back end of the Colorado Rockies bullpen in a full 162-game slate?
"“Let me just say that I’m glad it was a 60-game season and not 162,” Bard smiled. “That worked out really well for me. It kind of gave me like a bridge year to get back to the full season this year.”"
Bard was successful in that “bridge year” and is preparing mentally and physically for what could be his first exposure to a 162-game schedule since control issues first started to dominate the discussion during the 2012 campaign with the Boston Red Sox.
"More from Colorado Rockies NewsA Colorado Rockies ThanksgivingColorado Rockies: Charlie Blackmon out for the seasonColorado Rockies: Injuries shift look of roster ahead of Dodgers seriesColorado Rockies: 3 things we appreciated from Tuesday in San FranciscoWhat Bill Schmidt’s comments mean for the Colorado Rockies in 2023“I know that, if I’m healthy, it (his pitching ability) will be there,” Bard said. “When the season gets going, and a lot of that is kind of adrenaline-based anyway, just the energy of the game is going to get you ready so as long as you’re healthy.”"
The right-hander says that, with his experience and knowledge, he’ll be ready for whatever role he inherits this season in a back end of the Rockies bullpen that could include a full season of Mychal Givens (acquired from Baltimore in a trade last season), the return of Scott Oberg from blood clots, and Yency Almonte, who showed great improvement in 2020.
Bard appeared in 73 games in 2010 and 70 in 2011, but plenty has happened in the time since those high numbers. How he is preparing for his age-36 season is far different than the preparations for his age-26 campaign.
"“I haven’t been pitched in the big leagues for all of the last 12 years, but I have been a player and I’ve been around baseball for that whole time and learned a lot of things by just spending hours and hours in the weight room with six different organizations and picking their brains,” Bard said. “I just try to gather as much information as possible, try the things that sound good, ditch some other stuff, and move on.”"
And what’s the mindset as he prepares for a full season in 2021? Bard says he will be able to lock in once he starts facing live batters in camp.
"“It’s about reps. It’s being able to get in those games and compete rather than thinking about mechanics or delivery,” Bard explained. “It’s about being really externally focused on the hitter and winning those at-bats. Once I’m in that mindset, I just kind of let it roll.”"