Here's something everyone with the Red Sox can agree on: Converting Daniel Bard from a setup reliever to a starter is a worthwhile endeavor.
But it's reasonable to debate which role best serves the Red Sox right now.
Bard worked diligently in the offseason and throughout spring training to condition his arm to handle the increased workload of being a starter. Moreover, he has pitched reasonably well in his first two starts, affirming the team's decision late last month to make him the No. 5 starter and sparking little doubt in his ability to be an effective starter in the long term.
But circumstances have changed the Red Sox' pitching plans, particularly in the bullpen. Closer Andrew Bailey, acquired in a December trade with Oakland, is out until at least August after having thumb surgery April 4. Setup man Mark Melancon, another offseason addition, pitched so poorly in his first four outings that he was optioned to Class AAA.
Entering Monday night, Red Sox relievers had yielded 40 earned runs in 42-2/3 innings for a worst-in-the-majors 8.44 ERA, a number inflated only slightly by Saturday's meltdown against the Yankees in which Vicente Padilla, Matt Albers, Franklin Morales, Alfredo Aceves and Justin Thomas combined to allow 14 runs and record only five outs.
And so, after Sunday night's rainout caused the Red Sox to skip Bard's turn in the rotation and temporarily return him to the bullpen, it was worth wondering whether it may become a longer-term proposition, especially after Bard bailed the Sox out of an eighth-inning jam and stranded the go-ahead run on third base in an eventual 6-5 win over the Minnesota Twins.
Even Bard has found himself asking questions.
"I asked a lot of questions as to what their goals were in this," Bard said about the discussion he had with GM Ben Cherington and manager Bobby Valentine. "They said right now they have every intention of it being temporary and making my start on Friday. That's where I'm at right now. I still view myself as a starter and they said that they do, too. That's where they said they want me in the long run. For now, they said they'll try to address a need for a couple days and keep me from going 10 days without throwing, as well. (I) told them I was OK with it."