FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Daniel Bard could tell something was different when he was warming up in the bullpen before Thursday's relief outing against the Twins. The ball was coming out of his hand just right and the catcher was hardly moving his glove.
For the right-hander, that was a nice feeling -- one that had been absent over the last year as Bard had constantly been battling to recapture the mechanics and results that made him one of the game's best relievers.
Once Bard got into the game, the warm-ups carried right over. He pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning during Boston's 12-5 victory, retiring all three batters on strikeouts.
"It's something that's a feel that every pitcher knows what I'm talking about, when the ball is just coming out true," Bard said. "I was as locked in in the bullpen warming up as I've been in a long time. The catcher wasn't moving his glove a whole lot. It's always nice to carry that into the game."
And the velocity -- which had trailed off at times last year -- was back in the mid to upper 90s.
"I don't know what my velocity was, but it felt as good as it's felt in a long time coming out," Bard said. "There was finish on the ball. It had some late life to it. [I got] some late swings. It's a good feeling to get those reactions."
Bard's pitching life seemed to be turned upside down since last spring, when he tried to transition himself into a starter and completely lost himself.
The climb back this spring has been gradual. Bard had a clean outing against Northeastern University and also against the Rays, but he stayed away from games for a nine-day span that preceded Thursday's outing. The reason? Manager John Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves wanted him to work on the stride length in his delivery.
"Very encouraging," Farrell said. "He's taken the work that he's done on the side and in the [simulated] game into today. He stayed behind a lot of fastballs. There was improved command, improved velocity. It was a very good day for him."
Now Bard has something positive to build on entering his next outing, which will probably be in a couple of days.
"That's what Spring Training is all about," Bard said. "Not only getting ready, but getting mentally ready. It's nice to have some of these to get the confidence rolling and build on it every time out."
Ortiz still limited, trying to stay patient
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- David Ortiz is trying to be patient with his right Achilles tendon injury, but he admits that it's not easy.
The slugger is still getting sore after he cools off from running drills, and he still can't go full bore on a daily basis.
Ortiz had hoped to do extensive running drills like he did on Monday, but the designated hitter instead was reduced to a lighter day on Thursday like the one he had on Tuesday. And this came after a scheduled day off on Wednesday.
"Still feeling soreness, especially after I have a good day," Ortiz said. "They say it's part of the process. I'm just waiting. This [stuff] has been driving me crazy. I've got no choice but to wait. I hope it goes away soon so I can get back into action."
As of yet, Ortiz has not given up on his goal to play on Opening Day. At the same time, Papi knows that he needs to have progress soon if that's going to stay realistic.
"We have three and a half weeks until Opening Day," Ortiz said. "That's my goal, to be there, but it doesn't depend on me anymore. Yes, it depends on me, but you know what I mean."
What Ortiz means is that his right Achilles will ultimately make the decision for him, based on how it responds.
"I definitely want to be out there. I would like to be out there today, you know what I'm saying?" said Ortiz. "But it is what it is. I've had to deal with injuries before, but you don't see this one too often, and when you do, it's pretty much the same with everybody."
The problem with an Achilles injury is that it's all but pointless to make a timetable for recovery.
"I just keep on talking to people that have had that injury before, and they say the same thing," Ortiz said. "It takes a while. That's about it."
Buchholz working on tempo in between pitches
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Clay Buchholz had a clear focus as he took the mound on Thursday afternoon against the Twins. It was time to speed up.
Pitching with far better pace than in his first Spring Training outing five days earlier, Buchholz fired three shutout innings in the Red Sox's 12-5 win against the Twins, walking none and striking out four.
"The one thing I've been working on between starts is the pace of the game, getting the ball, getting back on the rubber, trying to find that rhythm," Buchholz said. "I tried to bring it into the game as much as I could. I felt better from that aspect -- getting the ball after throwing a strike and then throwing another strike."
The Red Sox were hands-on in helping Buchholz improve his tempo during his last side session.
"We put a stop watch on him and let him feel it," Farrell said. "They have to feel it. They have to feel the rhythm of the game and when things tend to slow down. Last time out, five days ago, he was 26, 28 seconds in between pitches. In the bullpen we tried to get him down to 15 seconds in between each and he was able to do that more consistently today."
Breslow likely to start season on disabled list
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Craig Breslow still hasn't gotten on a mound this spring as he recovers from weakness in his left shoulder, and manager John Farrell has conceded that it's doubtful the lefty setup man will start the season on the active roster.
"He's on an every other day throwing program right now. It's hard to project right now that he'll be ready to go once camp breaks," Farrell said. "He's going to need a little time. He's going to have to go back through not only the long toss progression but [bullpen sessions] and BP, that normal progression. For a reliever, it's a little bit shorter, but still, he's got some steps he's got to go through."
Another lefty reliever, Franklin Morales, has been slowed by a back injury and there's no guarantee he'll be ready by the end of camp either.
"Depending on how these next probably five to seven days go and how he can pick back up in the throwing program, that's going to give us a better read on whether he's going to be ready to go," Farrell said. "But he's had one appearance and one inning. It's not been a lot."
The biggest drawback as far as Morales is concerned is that the Red Sox had planned on stretching him out as a starter this spring in the event that one of the members of the rotation got injured. But there's no longer going to be time for that.
On the plus side, Farrell still has a healthy lefty reliever at his disposal in Andrew Miller. And righty Koji Uehara has a strong track record against left-handed batters.
De La Rosa looking for better pitch mix
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After looking unhittable in his first two outings of the Grapefruit League season, prospect Rubby De La Rosa struggled in Wednesday's game against the Pirates, giving up three hits and three runs over two innings.
One thing that manager John Farrell wants De La Rosa to focus on is a better pitch mix.
Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves have been trying to emphasize to De La Rosa that he's a power pitcher. In other words, they felt he was worrying too much about working in his offspeed pitches. But on Wednesday, De La Rosa took it a little too far, coming out of the gate with 11 straight fastballs.
"It was the intent to go in yesterday establishing and using his fastball a little more readily, and yet he and [catcher] Christian [Vazquez] ended up throwing -- the first 11 pitches were fastballs," said Farrell. "The overall command to his fastball is still a work in progress. We want to be clear that we're not taking his secondary pitches away. It's just a different distribution of the type of pitches thrown."
Farrell remains very high on the De La Rosa and Allen Webster, who was the other pitcher that came back in the blockbuster trade with the Dodgers.
"You hear guys' names and you don't know to what extent their talents are, but considering the deal and seeing the two arms that were brought back, it makes the trade even, in the long run, that much more advantageous," Farrell said. "Let's face it, we gave up some really talented players. We recognize that. Given where [general manager] Ben [Cherington] and others thought where we needed to go … to have that come back and be able to move that amount of money, it's a hell of a deal."