MINNEAPOLIS — Daniel Bard walked into the clubhouse on Saturday and saw a peculiar birthday present waiting for him.
It was a wheelchair with a card with the number for AARP and life support on it. His teammates were poking fun at the veteran as he celebrated yet another trip around the sun. Despite being the oldest player on the team and now one of only 26 active players in the majors 37 years old or older, Bard is pitching better than ever. His 15 saves are tied for seventh-most in MLB. Entering Saturday's game against the Twins, he hadn't given up an earned run since May 16.
Daniel Bard’s 37th birthday present from Tyler Kinley: a wheelchair and the number for AARP pic.twitter.com/Bwv2CjTXG6— Danielle Allentuck (@d_allentuck) June 25, 2022
"Yes and no," manager Bud Black said when asked if he was surprised Bard has still been able to pitch this well. "He's got a natural gift of an arm that works, a very efficient arm. He keeps himself in good shape. He's athletic."
Bard has simplified his approach this season, sticking with just his sinker and slider, using those pitches almost evenly. He still averages 97.9 mile per hour with the sinker and uses it as his main put-away pitch.
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That was on full display Friday night, when he pulled out a 98.4 mph sinker to get Jose Miranda to pop out to secure the four-out save and the Rockies' 1-0 win.
"I've been in these types of situations a lot over the last two-and-a-half years, and it's not that they don't still get you going, but you are able to focus more, deal with the emotions more," Bard said. "I love it."
Learning how to deal with his emotions has been key during his comeback. Bard started keeping a journal when he first began his journey back to the major leagues in 2020. He documents good outings or things that helped him get through a rough patch. He doesn't do it every day — he estimates there are only about 20 pages filled out — but it's become a useful tool to look at when he's feeling down.
Other times, when Bard needs more of a pick-me-up, he'll go through and find a stat at which he excels and use that to reassure himself that he is, in fact, a good pitcher.
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"I'll be like my sinker, guys are only hitting .150 on my sinker. I have a nasty sinker," Bard said. "And boom, there's some confidence."
The Rockies' need him now more than ever, as Tyler Kinley, who was the jokester behind Bard's birthday gift, is now out for the rest of the season with a torn flexor in his elbow. Kinley was the Rockies most consistent reliever, having allowed just two earned runs this season.
Bard has been putting up numbers that are equally good, and hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. He has found himself in contention to make his first All-Star team next month.
"He's really settled in to what makes him successful," Black said. "It took him a while to get there."