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A ONE-HIT DAY IS BIG STEP UP FOR BARD

Josh Bard hasn't had much to smile about this season.

The Buffalo Bisons' catcher started the year on the disabled list after surgery in March to repair two abdominal tears on each side of his body. For four weeks, Bard could barely walk. He took the field for the first time on June 22 with Double-A Akron but hasn't managed to hit higher than .250 at any level in his rehabilitation stint.

So don't blame him for relishing his 1-for-4 performance Sunday in the Herd's 7-4 victory over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

"Right now I'm just trying to put good swings on the ball and I felt like I did a better job of that today than I did the other days," said Bard, who scored two runs and drove in two as well. "It feels great (to go 1 for 4)."

That one hit was a big one, too. With runners on first and third in the fourth inning, Bard lined a two-run double over the head of Scranton center fielder Marlon Byrd to make it 3-0, the big hit in the Herd's four-run inning.

"It felt good to knock in two runs," Bard said. "Obviously you want to go out and get healthy, but this is a team sport and today I was able to help the team get a couple runs."

Bard entered Sunday batting .217 with just two RBIs in seven games since joining Buffalo on July 4. He fared even worse in 10 games with Akron, where he hit .167 with 5 RBIs.

All of which suggests he hasn't regained the timing he had at the plate last year that helped him hit .330 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in 35 games in Buffalo and .244 with eight homers and 36 RBIs in 91 games for Cleveland.

"It's hard not to (look at the current stats on the scoreboard) because obviously you want to go out there and you want do well," Bard said. "But that's one thing I've learned over the years -- that if you worry about the result, you're going to be flustered all the time."

Since he missed most of spring training after tearing his left abdomen, Bard often tells himself to look at it like he's picking up where he left off.

"It's pretty much like spring training because you're trying to just get at-bats and get your rhythm back," he said. "Catching-wise, I feel like I'm back to where I was. But having three months off with no at-bats, your timing gets a little off (at the plate)."

Bard said he doesn't feel 100 percent but he expects that in the next few days he'll finally get there. And if Sunday is any indication, he may be on his way.

He actually hit a ball farther than his RBI double when he clubbed a ball in the second inning that Byrd tracked down and caught with his arm pressed against the center-field wall.

"I took two pretty good swings today," Bard said. "You hit two balls out of four hard and you give yourself a chance to hit .300."

Bard wasn't the only rehabbing player to contribute for the Bisons. Ryan Ludwick, who opened the season on the disabled list after knee surgery, socked his first homer of the season, in the eighth inning.

Ludwick has followed nearly the same time table as Bard by playing his first game for Akron on June 21 and getting promoted to Buffalo on July 4. He entered Sunday hitting .267 for the Bisons.

"They haven't been here very long," manager Marty Brown said. "They are both trying to build themselves up physically. With time we'll see more and more quality at-bats."

With Sunday's win, the Herd wrapped up another series victory and continued its streak of not losing a series for more than a month. The Bisons have not lost a series since Columbus won three of four games June 3-6. Since then, the Herd has won nine and split two. . . . Brandon Phillips jammed his left thumb sliding headfirst into second base while trying to leg out a double in the first inning, but he stayed in the game.
e-mail: efontes@buffnews.com

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