(CNN) – Daniel Bard last pitched in the majors a little more than seven years ago. A former first-round pick with the Boston Red Sox, Bard had injuries, trouble with his mechanics and mental challenges — also known as the yips.
In a remarkable comeback, Bard, 35, learned Friday he has earned a spot on the 30-man Colorado Rockies’ Opening Day roster.
“I’m just super happy to be back,” Bard said. “I’m thankful to the Rockies for including me in the player pool to begin with, because they easily could have left me off. I couldn’t be more grateful for all the people that have allowed this to happen.”
Bard has not pitched in the majors since he was with Boston on April 27, 2013. After multiple failed comeback attempts, he had decided at the time that he had enough, retiring in 2017.
“I signed all kinds of deals, from 2012 to ’17, with a lot of different teams trying to get back,” Bard said. “I just was never comfortable because I wasn’t confident in what I was doing on the field.”
Bard went on to take a job with the Arizona Diamondbacks, working as a player mentor. He enjoyed the work, and he now credits the job in helping him with his own struggles.
“I finally didn’t have the pressure of trying to throw strikes, and I was able to just help other people and make that my job instead of trying to fix myself,” Bard said.
Last season, while playing catch with some players in the Diamondbacks organization, the ball release for Bard felt good. Others in the Diamondbacks organization took notice, he said, and he was encouraged to give playing another shot.
Initially, though, he wasn’t so sure.
“Playing catch is one thing, but getting on a mound and doing it to a big league hitter is a whole different story,” Bard said. “It kind of progressed, it planted a little seed in my head when I had other big league pitchers saying, ‘Hey, the ball is coming out really good. How are you feeling?'”
In the offseason, Bard kept throwing just for fun, he said, and he put himself at no “more than a 1% chance of trying to pitch again.” But he continued to surpass his own expectations, and by January, on a mound in Charlotte, North Carolina, he was throwing in the mid-90s — and they were strikes — “with ease,” Bard said.
“I hadn’t done that in eight years,” Bard said. “That’s when I was like, OK, I think I might need to give this some serious consideration.”
So Bard took the leap, quit his job with the Diamondbacks and made it known he was available to pitch again.
“It’s going to be a great story when he comes back and pitches well,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “We’re optimistic about that.”
By Jill Martin, CNN
™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.