I was at a Seadogs game late in the 2008 season, and many of the most promising prospects had already been moved up a notch as the Red Sox called up some players for roster expansion. There weren't many players on the field that day who were Baseball America household names, and the crowd was paying very little attention to the late-season contest.
Daniel Bard came in as a relief pitcher (after a disastrous first year in the minors as a starter in 2007, the Red Sox converted him to a reliever, with great results), and I remember the sensation of hearing all side conversations around me stop, as fans noticed the skinny kid lighting up the radar gun after seven innings of pitchers tossing in the mid-eighties.
Nothing changed when he initially came up to the big club: he'd come in during the eighth inning (to set up for Jonathan Papelbon) and routinely clock pitches in the triple digits while the crowd cheered its approval. When the Red Sox announced that they were going to make him a starter last year, I wasn't worried - despite the fact that history told us how that experiment would end.
By all accounts so far in spring training, Bard looks like he's back on track. We won't know anything for sure until the games start (the real ones, not spring training games), but I have high hopes for him this season. The bullpen is shaping up to be a real strength for this team, and Bard - if he gets himself back to form - could be a huge part of that potential success.