By Jeff Louderback
With yet another efficient save that required just nine pitches on Wednesday night, Koji Uehara recorded his 25th consecutive scoreless inning. That tied a team-best mark originally set by Daniel Bard.
Uehara is expected to serve as an anchor for the Red Sox bullpen as the team strives to wrap up the American League East title and play deep into October. Bard, who not so long ago was projected as the Red Sox closer of the future, was claimed off waivers by the Chicago Cubs, who are led my president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer. Epstein and Hoyer, of course, know Bard well from their days in Boston.
The 28-year-old Bard was designated for assignment last weekend to make room on the 40-man roster for veteran utility infielder John McDonald, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies.
A first round pick out of the University of North Carolina in 2006, Bard battled extreme control problems in the minors, but shook those issues and posted WHIPs of 1.28 in 2009, 1.00 in 2010 and 0.96 in 2011. He was a strikeout machine and appeared destined to replace Jonathan Papelbon in the closer’s role.
Instead, the Red Sox opted to convert Bard into a starting pitcher before the 2012 season. He preferred a starting role, but he struggled with a 6.22 ERA and a ghastly 1.74 WHIP in 17 games (including 10 starts) last year. He posted a 7.03 ERA and a 1.88 WHIP at Pawtucket.
This year, Bard had a 6.46 ERA and a 2.47 WHIP between three minor league stops. In his last outing at short-season Lowell, he walked four batters without allowing a run or a hit, and struck out two in his lone inning of work.