2009 Spring Training: Bard cut, injury progress report

Somewhat surprisingly, the Red Sox cut catcher Josh Bard this week, preventing his non-guaranteed contract from vesting for 2009. Instead of paying Bard $1.7M, the Sox owe him just $283k. As a direct result, 26-year old catcher George Kottaras (who will make the Major League minimum salary) appears to be penciled in as Tim Wakefield’s personal catcher and Jason Varitek’s backup on Opening Day. That is probably due to him being out of Major League options; however, should he struggle, the Sox will not hesitate to designate him in favor of Dusty Brown, who is seen as a better defensive option.

Bard is perhaps an average catcher, and we had him projected for a nice .285/.366/.415 performance this year (he was hitting very well this Spring). Kottaras strikes out too much to hit for a high average, but he does have some pop, as his 22 HR for Pawtucket showed last year. I have him at .219/.311/.410 this year, which is pretty miserable, but hey, this is backup catcher we’re talking about. It means we score what, 4 runs less this year? It’s like having 200 more ABs of Varitek up there, and he could always surprise.

In the end, I think this move is perhaps driven by economics. The perceived gap between Bard and Kottaras must not have been that big if the front office was willing to release Bard, a much more experienced player, outright. The big concern was his defense, which seems to have come a long way since last year.

It’s only March, but Daniel Bard’s heat is causing some serious buzz among scouts. He’s also performed well in some higher-leverage situations, which is rocketing him up the prospect charts. At this rate, he could be here before the All-Star break.

The Sox also waived Wes Littleton this week, and he was claimed by the Milwaukee Brewers, who are completely rebuilding their bullpen. Littleton was pretty horrendous this Spring, and struggled to throw strikes. Not a good way to make a team.

In his three inning appearance this week against minor leaguers, Brad Penny was clocking in at 95 mph on the radar gun. While I question that number somewhat (Penny has averaged 92-93 mph the past two years), it’s encouraging that he’s able to go full speed. He expects to be ready by April 12th, which is when the Sox will need a 5th starter for the first time.

Dustin Pedroia was able to swing a bat yesterday (and got a single, BTW!), and looks to be recovering well from his oblique pull.

And now the bad news:

Kevin Youkilis has been battling a sore ankle since before the WBC. It’ll heal, as long as he gets some rest. Don’t worry about this one.

In what is debatably bad news, Julio Lugo is expected to be out one month after having a scope on his knee. Since that time, Jed Lowrie has been tearing it up.


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