A Season Unlike Any Other for a Former Twins Prospect
Image courtesy of © Stan Szeto-USA TODAY SportsComing in as a first round pick, Luke was a highly sought-after prospect out of Georgia Tech. His brother had established himself as an elite setup man, and Minnesota hoped they found someone cut from a similar cloth. Luke’s best season in the Twins organization was unquestionably 2017 when he owned a 2.76 ERA and 13.6 K/9 at Double and Triple-A. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be given an opportunity at the big-league level that year and never debuted in Minnesota.
2018 followed with his first big league action coming for the Los Angeles Angels, and it was followed by 49 innings of solid work a year ago. As he embarks on his third Major League season, there’s plenty of excitement both for and around him this year. His brother Daniel, who last pitched in the majors seven years ago has made the Colorado Rockies Opening Day roster. Luke calls guys like Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani teammates. On his own, he’ll be looking to bolster a bullpen that has World Series aspirations in a division chasing down the Houston Astros.
Catching up with him before the season starts, I wanted to pick his brain on a handful of different topics:
Twins Daily: Take us back to 2012. You're drafted in 42nd overall by the Twins out of Georgia Tech, you've got a brother in the big leagues, and jumped up 15 rounds from your high school selection. What's going through your head and how much do you have to prove?
Luke Bard: It really was a dream come true. I think all players coming out of college don’t realize how tough professional baseball is. The season is three times longer, strike zones are smaller, and hitters are just better. Having had a brother make it to the big leagues so quickly with immediate success maybe made me have too high of expectations on myself. Injuries certainly did not help but there is definitely a lot to prove baseball wise from the time you’re drafted to the time you are ready to be in the big leagues. I’ve learned that lesson over the years and am grateful to still be doing what I love.
TD: Fast forward to 2017 and you are at Double-A Chattanooga striking out everyone. You put up great numbers and earned a promotion to Triple-A. The Twins were in contention that year, but any resentment or disappointment you didn't get to debut with your drafting organization?
LB: I had always envisioned myself playing in the major leagues for the Twins, but God had other plans. After the 2017 season I felt pretty confident I could pitch in the big leagues. When I wasn’t put on the 40-man roster that offseason I was pretty disappointed but was equally as excited when the Angels gave me a chance. Having been with Los Angeles for my 3rd season now I can’t imagine being anywhere else.
TD: You've now pitched in the majors for two seasons with the Los Angeles Angels. What has the difference been like between the organizations, and how has your approach and game changed facing the best of the best on a nightly basis?
LB: I will always be grateful to the Angels for believing in me and giving me a shot. I have really enjoyed my time here and can’t say enough good things about everyone in the organization and the culture they’ve created. The big leagues are tough though, and you can do everything right but still fail. It’s about finding ways to be consistent, durable, and competitive every outing for 162 games. It’s definitely a grind but that’s what makes it so enjoyable.
TD: Speaking of the Angels, what's it like to have a front row seat to Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Are we watching the best ever, and the closest thing to a Babe Ruth comparison in today's game?
LB: I probably take it for granted because I just see them as regular guys. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t awesome. Definitely something I will tell my grandkids about one day.
TD: I know you're a dad and have a family so going back to the game in weird circumstances is undoubtedly tough during 2020. How did you stay sharp during the layoff, and how do you expect the 60-game sprint to change how you both prepare and contribute this season?
LB: Unfortunately, I am away from my family right now with all the Covid issues. I miss them like crazy but am glad it’s just for 60 games. Thank God for FaceTime. I’m sure teams will go to the bullpen early if need be similar to playoff games. I hope the shorter season will make games even more intense and I think it could be just what baseball needs from a fan’s perspective.
TD: Your brother just made the Colorado Rockies Opening Day roster after having not pitched in the big leagues since 2013 as a 28-year-old. What is that like for you as a fan of his, and how did he get back?
LB: To say I’m proud would be an understatement. He’s been through hell and back baseball wise and is still here seven years later competing on the biggest stage. The determination he’s shown is unmatched and somebody needs to make a movie about it haha.
TD: Let's wrap with this, what do you see as the best avenue for you to take the next step in 2020, and what are you looking forward to in a season that will be rivaled by none other?
LB: I think just getting a defined role that I can settle into would help me. Other than that, just execute when called upon. At the end of the day it’s usually the guy that executes better that wins. It is easier said than done but makes for a simple way to look at it. I’m looking forward to hopefully playing playoff baseball. We’ve got a great team with some of the game’s biggest stars and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.
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