When the Red Sox were going through their "Will he or won't he?" stage on Daniel Bard and starting vs. relieving, two major-league pitching coaches expressed concern about what it would all mean for Bard's future.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up with 'the thing,'" one of them said sadly.
"The thing," as in the sudden inability of a pitcher to throw the ball over the plate at all.
Friday night in Pawtucket, Bard allowed five of the six batters he faced to reach base. His final four batters went walk, hit batter, walk, walk. He threw just four of his final 17 pitches for strikes, and several of the 13 balls were far out of the strike zone.
It doesn't mean he has "the thing." Pawsox manager Arnie Beyeler told the Providence Journal that Bard simply "can't repeat" his delivery.
It does mean that Bard isn't close to being able to help the Red Sox, as a starter or as a reliever.
He was a starter this year in Boston. He started the first game after the Red Sox sent him to Triple-A, then moved to the bullpen, at first as an experiment, and eventually for good.
His nine-appearance numbers for the Pawsox: 11 1/3 innings, 11 hits, nine runs (all earned), eight walks, four hit batters, 14 strikeouts. Add in the final big-league outing that earned Bard a demotion, and Bard has allowed 32 of the last 68 batters to reach base, 20 of them by walk or hit batter.
It's ugly, and it's scary.
Bard's problems haven't shown up in every appearance. Just this past Wednesday, he had a 10-pitch, 7-strike inning.
But then came Friday, when Bard was so bad that he refused to even talk about it, according to Brian McPherson of the Journal.
At best, it has to be a great concern for the Red Sox.
And at worst . . .