The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed right-handed reliever Daniel Bard to a minor league contract. Once a top prospect who turned into a solid Major League reliever for three seasons(2009-11), Bard battled major control issues in 2013-14. During his four minor league games in 2014, all spent in Low-A, he faced a total of 18 batters, walking nine and hitting seven. He also tried winter ball and the results were even worse, with 12 of the 13 hitters getting walked or hit, plus he threw four wild pitches. The 30-year-old signed with the Cubs in 2015, then spent the entire year on the disabled list.
Bard is a big arm, hitting 100 mph in the past, while also throwing a low-90’s sinker. He had a lot of success with the combo in the minors and for three years with the Red Sox, but he is also far removed from that success. If the Pirates can get him back on track, then it’s another power arm in the bullpen. It’s a minor league deal, so there is no risk involved(except to opposing hitters) to give him a shot. If he shows any signs of his control returning, then Bard will probably open the season with Indianapolis. If not, he could hang back in Extended Spring Training to continue to work on things.
Updated 9:30 am: The Pirates have re-signed Guido Knudson, who was released last week. He was dropped from the 40-man roster when the Pirates added Neftali Perez and Trey Haley last week, then became a free agent when he was sent outright to Indianapolis. There was interest right away in re-signing him and the two sides quickly agreed to a minor league deal.
Knudson on the re-signing: “They’ve actually been in constant contact for the most part. Just had to make room for a couple of roster changes. They really wanted me here, and I want to be here, so it was a pretty easy decision.”
Knudson mentioned that he throws a slider and a change-up to go along with his fastball, which reaches 94 mph. He’s comfortable throwing all three pitches. The 26-year-old got his first taste of the big leagues in 2015, making four appearances over a two-week span in late August and early September. The results weren’t pretty, with ten earned runs allowed over five innings, including a home run in each appearance, two in the last outing. Knudson however, had a strong season in AAA, reaching the level for the first time in 2015, so there is potential there. Now the Pirates have him on a minor league deal, so he will likely start out in the Indianapolis bullpen and will get a shot in Pittsburgh if he pitches like he did at AAA last year.