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Bard Emerging As Nats' Regular Catcher

About 1-1/2 months ago, Washington Nationals hitting coach Rick Eckstein approached Josh Bard and suggested that the catcher change his swing. Bard's swing, Eckstein said, had too many moving parts, too many variables that could betray him.

"It was hard to hear," Bard recalled.

Bard had always known his swing relied on lots of movement. But he'd used it successfully. In 2006, he'd hit .333 with nine homers in San Diego. "For a couple years since," Bard said, "I felt almost like I was chasing that swing."

After speaking with Eckstein, Bard stopped chasing his old swing and dedicated himself to learning something new -- a swing that relied on less hand movement and a shorter stroke. It took about two weeks for Bard to feel comfortable with the mechanics, and even then, he wasn't sure the basic movements could generate power. Then, on June 2, Bard homered against San Francisco's Tim Lincecum, the reigning Cy Young winner.

Bard, after that, believed in his swing. He also revived his season. Before June, Bard had a .174 average, splitting time with Wil Nieves. Ever since, Bard is hitting .400 (18-for-45). Tonight, he's starting for the fifth time in six games.

"We're trying to play the best team on the field right now, and we can't sit him right now," Manny Acta said. "He's playing well."

Bard, as he tries to maintain his new stroke, no longer takes on-field batting practice. The rapid-fire approach, with BP pitchers grooving easy-to-hit pitches, is counterproductive to what Bard seeks. Thus, he meets every day, in the early afternoon, with Eckstein. They head to the cages. Eckstein throws one pitch, waits, then throws another. He purposefully mixes in some balls.

"The swing I had before had a lot of movement," Bard said. "I've got long arms, long legs, so sometimes it's hard to get everything in unison. I think I was spending a lot of times worry about things that didn't matter. I spent so much time worrying about my swing that I never worried about what I was swinging at. Now I'm trying to slow down the whole approach."

*

In his last three games (2-1/3 innings), Joel Hanrahan has allowed eight earned runs. His season ERA now stands at 7.71. He's given the team little reason to pitch him in close games -- and Washington's front office openly admits that he'd be pitching in the minors, if only he had options remaining. However, Washington has no such luxury; cutting ties with the hard-throwing 27-year-old would likely mean losing him to another organization. And the Nationals still aren't willing to do that, acting GM Mike Rizzo said today.

"I just think we'll have to be patient with him and live with him," Rizzo said. "Manny will have to put him in the right positions to succeed -- maybe winning by a lot of runs, losing by a lot of runs."

By Chico Harlan  |  June 27, 2009; 7:07 PM ET
 
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Next: Stammen Moves To Pen (And Post-Game Comments)

Comments

Pete McElroy at masnsports says that Nick Johnson is just getting the night off.

Posted by: wrw0601 | June 27, 2009 7:13 PM | Report abuse

attention baseball shoppers...we call your attention to the severely marked-down items batting seventh and eighth tonight for washington. make us an offer. mid-level prospect...low=level prospect...organization guy...roster-filler. we'll even help you carry them home

Posted by: surly_w | June 27, 2009 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Dang Bard! That was the at-bat that could have given us a comfortable lead.

BTW - Does anyone believe that we're being *hurt* by the DH in this game? I think Martis is a better hitter than Kearns for sure.

Posted by: souldrummer | June 27, 2009 7:24 PM | Report abuse

anytime kearns is in the lineup is bad.

Posted by: MalcolmYoung | June 27, 2009 7:27 PM | Report abuse

I'm hoping two years from now we'll look at this lineup and laugh about how sh*tty it used to be

I hoping to be doing that this year from 06.

BTW you do not have to use a DH but you lose it if you don't .

Posted by: CBinDC | June 27, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Kearns is out .....wow I did not see that coming

Posted by: CBinDC | June 27, 2009 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Why do Nat's pitchers seem to groove the ball right down the middle (with no movement)?

Posted by: NickfromGermantown | June 27, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Well my oh my...
An actual RBI from Kearns.
Submitting lottery numbers immediately.

Posted by: HotNats | June 27, 2009 8:16 PM | Report abuse

I see Rizzo is as easily seduced by "tools" as was his former boss.

Posted by: leetee1955 | June 27, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Belliard had better make up here for grounding into a DP last time he was up with the bases loaded.

Posted by: BGinVA | June 27, 2009 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Bases loaded, no hit, GIDP, now loaded again, pleeeeeeeeez for natsfan1a, JayBee, not again!!! Belly, has it been so long since that walk off in the 13th? Oh, Dear God, it's Kearns . . .

Posted by: flynnie2 | June 27, 2009 8:53 PM | Report abuse

KEARNS, YOU STILL STINK!! YOU BUM!!!

Posted by: BGinVA | June 27, 2009 8:55 PM | Report abuse

Dear God indeed, I was actually hoping he'd get a lift from his earlier RBI hit, dammit, not to be...

Posted by: HotNats | June 27, 2009 8:55 PM | Report abuse

Can a player be released in the middle of a game?

Posted by: NickfromGermantown | June 27, 2009 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Kearns has got to go. Enough already.

Posted by: RicketyCricket | June 27, 2009 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Okay, so on Monday I leave for two weeks of backpacking in Colorado, where I will have no communication with the real world. When I come back, Kearns and Hanarhan had better be gone. Manny should be gone too, but those two should be first.

Posted by: BGinVA | June 27, 2009 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Can a player be released in the middle of a game?

Posted by: NickfromGermantown
---------------------------------------------

My vote for post of the eve...

Posted by: HotNats | June 27, 2009 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Basically, if we lose, Belliard has cost us this game. His double play groundout and his out in the last situation have been fatal. If the goal of this team is to win games, we have to DFA Belliard. What on earth is he on our roster for?

Posted by: souldrummer | June 27, 2009 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Belliard and Kearns just plain suck. There isno other way to put it. Neither one of these jackasses could lift a flyball to score a run.

Posted by: chris88 | June 27, 2009 8:57 PM | Report abuse

leetee1955

TOOLS you are correct BIG TOOLS.

Belliard and Kearns the depression twins from different mothers

Posted by: CBinDC | June 27, 2009 8:58 PM | Report abuse

I've been a fan of Ronnie, but he has done nothing for us this season. There's no reason he needs to be playing when we have Hernandez and Gonzales available. Add him to the list of people I want to see gone when I return right before the All-Stat Break.

Posted by: BGinVA | June 27, 2009 8:59 PM | Report abuse

This is why I have been saying Acta does not manage to win. He put our two worst hitters in a row. He does not think or adjust. Acta has to learn to put the best players on the field. Stop hopping Kearns or Belliard will do something they just are not going to do. That was when you pinch hit Johnson for Belliard or Kearns. That was the ball game but NOoooooo Manny is running this like a spring training game.

Posted by: JayBeee | June 27, 2009 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Lets just get rid of every Bowden All-Dumpster Team players. PLEASE!!!!

I wish them great fortune where ever they find themselves.......but it is clear it will not be here.

Posted by: CBinDC | June 27, 2009 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Also absolutely a tease for Rob Carpenter to throw a bump not to HBD, but Amber Theoharis, who I shall refer to from here on out as Chai (completely hot AND intelligent)

Posted by: HotNats | June 27, 2009 9:03 PM | Report abuse

Two questions for the post game press conference with Manny.

1. Why did you play two sub 200 hitters in the same game?

2. Why did you bat them back to back?

I just don't get it!

Posted by: spnats1 | June 27, 2009 9:05 PM | Report abuse

This score should be 8 to 3 at least ........ but you can see it coming ....the resolve that what they will do is going to result in loss.

It is in their eyes .....in the way they walk to the plate.

Posted by: CBinDC | June 27, 2009 9:05 PM | Report abuse

hard to argue with that Jaybeee. My biggest issue with Manny is that no one seems to be accountable for anything, but his in game decision making is awful.

Posted by: chris88 | June 27, 2009 9:06 PM | Report abuse

boy, these guys sure can hit those twin-killing grounders, can't they? this is like a tom emanski instructional video "The Many Ways to Ground Into Double Plays."

Posted by: surly_w | June 27, 2009 9:07 PM | Report abuse

BG - get a solar powered XM radio - you can get Vin Scully to tell you bedtime stories, and you won't miss the eminent, guaranteed, well-deserved win streak!

Posted by: flynnie2 | June 27, 2009 9:07 PM | Report abuse

Gonzalez, Zimm, and Willie have been flashing leather and making web gems.

Posted by: flynnie2 | June 27, 2009 9:09 PM | Report abuse

I do not think there has ever been a team like this in any sport...one they finds they are the visitors no matter where they play ....in their so called home...on their so called TV network....they are second class to it all ...the last one picked for the team.....the mercy date or the bet pay off date.

Posted by: CBinDC | June 27, 2009 9:11 PM | Report abuse

Did I hear that right? Stammen to bullpen when Olsen comes back? If true, I like this over Detwiler going to the pen, if only that Stammen seems more mature and should be able to handle that kind of move, and his 3rd time through the order OBA seems to fit a bullpen role... Also, it means Hanrahan or Colome have hit the road... Hanarahan's a decent guy, but he hasn't earned the right to stay up here.

Posted by: sammoMD | June 27, 2009 9:11 PM | Report abuse

So I ask why is Manny a good manager!!!

Did I miss something along the way?

Posted by: CBinDC | June 27, 2009 9:13 PM | Report abuse

Way to go Manny. Putting Belliard and Kearns back to back. Un-freakin' believable. Oh and Stan - make sure to stick with the "plan", it seems to be working, if the plan is to ensure one of the worst records of all time. Listening to ESPN radio today, the Nats were referred to as "putrid, basically a AAA team". Oh well, at least the Lerners, Kasten and Acta will be forever documented as the architects of this embarrasment. Instead of increasing the fan base in a city that didn't have baseball for 35 years, they are managing to dwindle down what dedicated base they had to start with. Congrats to the Lerners, that weak a** commisoner Selig and Peter Angelos. Methinks they all got exactly what they wanted. 'Course I may be a little bitter as we lose again to the BlO's....

Posted by: smill411 | June 27, 2009 9:15 PM | Report abuse

I do have a portable XM radio, so I may be able to follow a little bit here and there, but with the way we're playing, I'm not going out my way to listen to any games while I'm out west. Isn't the point of a vacation to escape your daily stresses?

Posted by: BGinVA | June 27, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Surly_w - great line "like a tom emanski instructional video "The Many Ways to Ground Into Double Plays."

Might a suggest a slight change: "The Manny (Acta) ways to....

Posted by: smill411 | June 27, 2009 9:18 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of XM, I was briefly listening to the O's feed of the game earlier, and it's not their normal team of Fred Manfra and Joe Angel. I swear the second person sounds like Suzyn Waldron of the Yankees broadcast team. Do they have a female announcer that normally fills in?

Posted by: BGinVA | June 27, 2009 9:19 PM | Report abuse

jaybee: This is why I have been saying Acta does not manage to win. He put our two worst hitters in a row.


so, which .350 hitter would you have brought off the bench there?

but, seriously, what is the better move.

Posted by: MalcolmYoung | June 27, 2009 9:23 PM | Report abuse

We should have busted this game open in the first inning. See you all later...

Posted by: BGinVA | June 27, 2009 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Johnson

Posted by: JayBeee | June 27, 2009 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Money has got to be the only reason at this point, that Kearns has not been DFA'd. The owernership is to cheap to cut the dude and still have to pay him. They will wait until late August early Sept. to cut his 6-4-3 hitting arse.

Posted by: Section505203 | June 27, 2009 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Dukes

Posted by: JayBeee | June 27, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Or Hernandez...you pick

Posted by: JayBeee | June 27, 2009 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Hell JayB, Martis would be better option at this point.

Posted by: Section505203 | June 27, 2009 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Good night all I can not stand this any more today.

Posted by: CBinDC | June 27, 2009 9:28 PM | Report abuse

jaybee, fair enough. i misread your point before too. I thought it was about pinch hitting, but it was the lineup.

so, luke scott, 2 weeks ago i saw in a post-game interview, and it was something like, "I try to do jesus' work everyday and when I do it right, he lets me hit a home run, but if I don't hit one that means i'm not doing it correctly (as in mental faith)."

which is great, yet a little unnerving...

Posted by: MalcolmYoung | June 27, 2009 9:31 PM | Report abuse

I think they're resting nick though.

Posted by: MalcolmYoung | June 27, 2009 9:32 PM | Report abuse

"Speaking of XM, I was briefly listening to the O's feed of the game earlier, and it's not their normal team of Fred Manfra and Joe Angel. I swear the second person sounds like Suzyn Waldron of the Yankees broadcast team. Do they have a female announcer that normally fills in?"

former o's pitcher dave johnson is filling in. He has a tad of a high voice on radio, nothing sounding like a woman though. haha you embellished that big-time

Posted by: nattylite88 | June 27, 2009 9:32 PM | Report abuse

reading the remarks of the interim GM regarding gascanrahan this team has gone from being bowden's bargain basement to rizzo's reclamations. same stand, new proprietor. motto: "we treasure our trash."

Posted by: surly_w | June 27, 2009 9:35 PM | Report abuse

so, jaybee, if they had fired manny yesterday and (you suggest Eckstein) took over, and Eckstein put your suggested lineup in his back pocket and alternated either dukes or hernandez (but not your suggestion of johnson who is resting avoiding a longer term injury) in tonite's lineup, the whole game and season would have been lovely. I just really think you're reaching to prove your earlier point right (which it may be!)

Posted by: MalcolmYoung | June 27, 2009 9:37 PM | Report abuse

surly,

They are working on a shoe-string budget. Bowden and now Rizzo can only do what they can do with basically no budget.

Posted by: Section505203 | June 27, 2009 9:37 PM | Report abuse

505

paging LAC...paging LAC. please pick up the white courtesy phone.

Posted by: surly_w | June 27, 2009 9:41 PM | Report abuse

I propose a new stat - KIDP

"Kearnsed into double play"

Posted by: SilverSpring8 | June 27, 2009 9:41 PM | Report abuse

SS8 - that is perfect.

Posted by: MalcolmYoung | June 27, 2009 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Lerners probably have a secret deal with MLB and Angelos to see to it that baseball fails again in DC. They have probably figured out a way to break the stadium lease when the time comes.

Posted by: CountDemoney | June 27, 2009 9:58 PM | Report abuse

surly,

Just calling it as I see it. Do you have any evidence that they are not cheap?

Please note: Think very hard before you answer, because I have the last 3 years of payroll rankings, an unsigned 1st round pick, almost zero international signings, etc on my side of the argument.

Posted by: Section505203 | June 27, 2009 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Just wondering why with Dunn on first base and down by 2 runs in the 8th, Manny didn't run for Dunn. Seemed pretty obvious. Dibble and Palmer couldn't understand why they weren't doing it. Os had same situation in bottom of inning and they pinch ran Pie. I mean I know Acta has got a "great demeanor" and all but what about basic baseball sense? Just wondering.

Posted by: dovelevine | June 27, 2009 10:08 PM | Report abuse

They are absolutely terrible with the bases loaded with none or 1 out! A good team would score a lot with the bases loaded, the Nats can't get anything. Offense suckssssssssss! It's ridiculous that they had runners on 2nd and 3rd with no out and could not get anything. 21-51!!!

Posted by: rachel216 | June 27, 2009 10:11 PM | Report abuse

Please release Kearns and Belliard immediately!This team is going to finish as the worst team in MLB with or without them.Let's see some of the kids in the organization.

Posted by: hotrod2 | June 27, 2009 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Someone on here yesterday evening was trying to say the O's had no prospects. LOL, what a nice little joke by that poster.

Who hit the game-winning, go-ahead 3-run homer today?

Only ROOKIE Nolan Reimold, that's who. The O's current outfielder who in a little over a month in the big leagues has a .290 average with 9 dingers and 20 rbi's.

Looks like the O's win the season series against the Natinals this year eh?

hahahhahahahhahahhahaha

Posted by: Os_Exec | June 27, 2009 10:16 PM | Report abuse

Release Kearns? Surely you jest. He's such a nice guy and such a hard worker. And he's Manny's favorite player. And Manny has great baseball sense and knows and can spot great talent. And Kearns is the real deal. At least that's what Manny says.

Posted by: dovelevine | June 27, 2009 10:17 PM | Report abuse

dovelevine,

on the pinch run for dunn question - the announcers brought that up and discussed it - should they do it, etc.

alternate scenario though is, if the score gets tied, you'd like dunn to still be in the lineup. to knock one out later. playing from behind, don't remove your offense.

i thought they should have pinch run there (did fatboy dunn contribute to an out not getting around second later right then?), but its not irrational.

Posted by: MalcolmYoung | June 27, 2009 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Gotta love all these interent arm-chair GM's and coaches who would definitely do better at running an actual major league baseball organization.

I mean, we see it all the time. Right?

Posted by: Os_Exec | June 27, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Like Knight said on the postgame, none of the hitters even vaguely has a plan at the plate, especially when it's an rbi situation. They pull pitches they shouldn't swing at, they don't look for a pitch in a certain area, they don't look for certain types of pitches. They don't look to hit the ball the other way, they don't try to elevate it when a ground ball is a death sentence with the bases loaded. They couldn't even GROUND INTO A DOUBLE PLAY WITH THE INFIELD CONCEDING A RUN with nobody out. Like he said, it bothers all of us, but Acta's the one getting paid to deal with it. 21-51 is getting into the atomic realm of suck on it and like it. Unbelievable that Manny's still here. Truly unbelievable. I've never seen anything even remotely close to this situation without anything being done.

Posted by: Brue | June 27, 2009 10:25 PM | Report abuse

O's exec you have a point. the armchair GMs and managers are a bit tiresome. reminiscent of the o's for 15 years when the owner acted like a fantasy baseball owner, while sleeping on a bed of cash stolen from victims of mesothelioma and throat cancer. I'm still waiting for my over the counter amphetamine substitutes.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Angelos

Posted by: MalcolmYoung | June 27, 2009 10:33 PM | Report abuse

O's exec.

I work in Boston, so while your comment about us do suck, it is enjoyable to show them to the Sox fans I work with so that can have a chuckle at you.

They actually wait for you and poppy to post because it amuses them that you Lord it over people given you are ritualistically owed every time you play in your own division.

Posted by: soundbloke | June 27, 2009 10:41 PM | Report abuse

We are the laughing stock of mlb,and Stan Kasten had the nerve to stand at the podium this past week(at the Nat.Press Clb.) and give Acta a vote of confidence. The fans of this franchise should be outraged and oh yeah Rick Eckstein how about getting this team to work on its situational hitting(has to be the worst in the league) last year Lenny Harris was excoriated on this blog about this team's hitting and that was with a putrid lineup Willy Mo,Paul LoDuca,FLop, and the rest and this year Eckstein has better talent and all i know is that they leave more men on base then any other mlb team. Shairon Martis should be ashamed of himself to start off 5-0 and now he can't get past the fifth inning in most games since, bottom line bring in Tim Foli he has the Syracuse team fighting for a pennant in triple A ball.Tim Foli would give this team credibility in the dugout and a refreshing change in terms of the losing culture that has a death grip on the mindset of this team.This ballclub has no chance as long as Manny is in the dugout yeah they will win the occasional game or two but win consistently? not a chance as long as Acta is the manager.

Posted by: dargregmag | June 27, 2009 10:45 PM | Report abuse

The only good thing about this game is that eventually such horrible play from Belliard will move them to DFA Belliard against their will. Without repeated unequivocal failure they will continue to hope he pulls out of it.

I think we all know that Kearns and Belliard suck. I wish this were a team that held these players accountable, but it doesn't appear to be. Some of that is Manny. More of that is an ownership that refuses to cut bait with expensive players.

My bigger concern is Martis. As they said on the telecast, Martis has not been very good since his solid start on the west coast. I look at his K/BB ratio and his stuff and I don't see a major league starter. Out of our current young pitching assets [Zimmermann, Detweiler, Lannan, Stammen, Martis, Ballester, Strasburg if signed], Martis would be the one I'd be most willing to move in a package if I could get some value for him.

The real interesting thing going forward will be can the Nats turn some of this pitching talent into young offensive talent so that there is no question of keeping guys like Kearns on the roster next year.

Posted by: souldrummer | June 27, 2009 10:46 PM | Report abuse

There is nothing left to see here folks. Hard to think that it may be after the All-Star Break that this team can actually get to 30 wins. PATHETIC. Next time I hear StanK tell everyone he doesn't like the losing too, I'll ask him if I can get a refund on my 5K of seasons tickets that I'm stuck with until Sept. Enough already! Do they realize the damamge they have done to this region? The FO is clueless!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | June 27, 2009 11:03 PM | Report abuse

>I'll ask him if I can get a refund if I
> can get a refund on my 5K of seasons
> tickets that I'm stuck with until Sept. >...The FO is clueless!

You bought $5K of Nats tickets this year....and you accuse the front office of being clueless??

Posted by: mvm2 | June 27, 2009 11:17 PM | Report abuse

HA HA HA. Did someone page me? Have you all missed me?

Anyway, my work is done here. I think pretty much everyone now recognizes what these scummy lowlife owners are all about. Those who still defend them--can I have some of whatever your Kool-Aid is spiked with?

What is the target date for contending now? 2014?

Posted by: LernersARECheap | June 27, 2009 11:17 PM | Report abuse

They actually wait for you and poppy to post because it amuses them that you Lord it over people given you are ritualistically owed every time you play in your own division.

Posted by: soundbloke | June 27, 2009 10:41 PM
______________________________________________________________

Soundbloke,

Tell your co-workers that these two moronic jackasses are actually the same person.

The clues that they are the same dumbass are numerous. According to these two (one) idiot(s), they both live on the west coast (CA if I'm not mistaken), they both went to Maryland, they both are in their late 20's and they both brag about doing drugs, just to name a few.

This fool also posts over on the Terps Insider and even though he claims to be a Maryland alum, all he does is slam the Terps any chance he gets.

Hell, for all we know he may also be Nunof1, but I digress.

Posted by: Section505203 | June 27, 2009 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Acta: "We're trying to play the best team on the field right now,...."
Yeah right: Belliard and Kearns. Mr. Acta, you have no clue!

Posted by: johnbear1 | June 27, 2009 11:22 PM | Report abuse

"I do not think there has ever been a team like this in any sport...one they finds they are the visitors no matter where they play ....in their so called home...on their so called TV network....they are second class to it all ...the last one picked for the team.....the mercy date or the bet pay off date."


Actually...there is one other team in sports that pretty much fits this bill. They're called the Washington Generals.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | June 27, 2009 11:23 PM | Report abuse

LAC,

Glad to hear from you again. I used to think that you were a negative Nancy, but, I have seen the light. Boy, have I seen the light.

I am not to proud to admit it, you were right. The Lerner's are flat out cheap and Kasten is the used car salesman fool that is right along with them.

The Kool Aid drinkers are not as great in number any more but, they are out there and may God help them.

Posted by: Section505203 | June 27, 2009 11:28 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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