A few weeks ago, my wife’s uncle and I were talking about the Red Sox when he mentioned that Jonathan Papelbon might not stay with the team when he hits free agency. As a fan, the thought of Paps leaving is a little scary – say all you want about closers being a dime a dozen, the fact of the matter is that ninth inning worries have been few and far between for the last several seasons.
Upon hearing the news, however, I was strangely unconcerned, because I had recently heard news of the big flamethrowing righthander romping through the minor league system. Drafted in the first round in 2006 as a starter, moved to the bullpen in 2007, and then…
Forty-three strikeouts in 28 innings for Single A Greenville in 2008. A 1.99 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 49.2 innings following a promotion to Double A Portland later that year. Triple digits on the radar gun in 2009 spring training. A 1.13 ERA, six saves in eleven games, and 29 strikeouts in 16 innings for Triple A Pawtucket this season.
Yes, when Papelbon is gone, I will feel completely comfortable watching Daniel Bard step into the closer role. For right now, he’s hanging in the bullpen and waiting to make his major league debut, which ought to come any day now. And suddenly, I find myself longing for the days when Josh Bard was also in a Red Sox uniform, and lamenting that we may never see a Bard-Bard battery.
Oh, and he needs a nickname. I don’t know why. He just does.