As the calendar inches closer to fall and the Major League regular season begins to wind down, two North Carolina baseball alums have been making an impact within their respective organizations.
Both right-handed pitchers, Daniel Bard and Zac Gallen have been steady in recent years, continuing the long pipeline of MLB talent coming from the Tar Heels’ baseball program.
Here’s a look at how their careers have shaped up thus far, as well as an evaluation of how they have been performing this season.
Perhaps no professional baseball player in recent memory has experienced a journey quite like Daniel Bard.
After a productive three-year stint as a Tar Heel, Bard was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the first round of the 2006 MLB Draft. He was a solid reliever from 2009-2011, but when coaches inserted him into the starting rotation at the beginning of the 2012 season, his career fell off the rails.
Bard’s velocity dipped and he immediately lost his ability to throw strikes, leading some to believe he suffered from the yips – an inexplicable state of nervous tension that prevents athletes from performing basic skills. After appearing in only two games in 2013, he wouldn't make another appearance for the next four seasons, leading to his retirement in October 2017.
Then, almost as miraculous as the way he fell off, Bard began his climb back to the sport’s top stage.
Hoping to resurrect his career, Bard was invited to spring training with the Colorado Rockies in 2020 and was immediately assigned to the team’s Triple-A affiliate. During the COVID-shortened season, Bard made the team’s Opening Day roster and pitched well enough to earn the National League Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Following a slight dip in production in 2021, Bard has put up the best numbers of his career in 2022. Boasting 24 saves and a 2.16 earned run average, he has staked himself as one of the game’s best relievers at the ripe age of 37 years old.
Although the Rockies currently sit at the bottom of the NL West division, Bard will be a free agent at the end of the season – potentially giving him the opportunity to bolster the bullpen of a contender as early as next year.
After brief stops in the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins organizations, Zac Gallen has found a home with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Since being traded to the Diamondbacks in July 2019, the 27-year-old has emerged as one of the top young starting pitchers in baseball, posting a sub-three ERA in three different seasons. His best year was 2020, when he struck out 82 batters in 72 innings en route to a top-10 finish in Cy Young Award voting.
Although the Diamondbacks will likely finish the season with a losing record for the third year in a row, Gallen has been one of the team’s bright spots in 2022.
He bolted out of the gate, giving up just five total runs in his first seven starts. Despite a rough month of June – when he gave up 15 runs in just under 26 innings – Gallen has responded nicely since then, as his ERA currently sits at a solid mark of 2.94.
As the Diamondbacks continue their rebuild, they will aim to build around Gallen and the rest of the young talent on the team to push their way toward contention.
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