The switch-hitting catcher had hernia surgery a few weeks later.
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Bard On Road Back

Josh Bard (AP/Amy Sancetta)

AKRON -- Josh Bard went 0-for-3 Tuesday night in his first game on a rehabilitation assignment for the Class AA Akron Aeros.<br><br> "It's coming along and just to be back in uniform again feels great," said Bard, who had been sidelined since injuring his lower left abdominal area in a spring training game on March 27.<br><br> The switch-hitting catcher had hernia surgery a few weeks later.<br>

"I'm excited to be coming back," Bard said. "It has been a lot longer than anyone thought."

Bard originally was listed as day-to-day after being injured while running the bases in an exhibition game against the Cincinnati Reds.

"The biggest thing that was frustrating for me was that I went to five different doctors and got five different opinions," he said. "I kept trying to rehab it down in spring training and just kept feeling like I was pulling my groin."

In mid-April, he had surgery to repair the anterior pelvic floor on both sides of his lower abdomen. It was performed by Dr. Bill Meyers at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Dr. Meyers did hernia surgery on Indians pitcher Cliff Lee last fall.

"I'm just grateful that we got it fixed," Bard said. "It was like we either get it fixed now and miss part of this season or try to play and keep breaking down. I would have had to have it done at the end of the season anyway, so I guess I am this much ahead of where I would have been.

"I had a great surgeon, but I've got to admit that I was a little concerned afterwards. The doctor said everything went just perfectly, but it really got my attention when I was walking around for four weeks like Cro-Magnon man, all hunched over.

"They sewed me so tight I couldn't stand up straight. But I realized this was going to help me in my career and I was alright with it.

"They said I had an old tear in my right side and I was playing with it and I didn't really know about it. They said that when you tear both sides, your pelvis starts to shift forward a little bit. That explains why I kept feeling like I was pulling my groin."

When he was injured, Bard was locked in a battle with Tim Laker for the backup catcher's job.

"You know me, I always want to play," Bard said. "But I think this was sort of a blessing. I was able to be there for the birth of my first child and got to spend a lot of time with my family. I think this thing is going to work itself out. I know I have a lot of years left to play and this has just been a bump in the road."

Bard hit .429 (12-for-28) in 15 exhibition games and worked hard with hitting coach Eddie Murray to improve. He began last season as the Indians' starter, but struggled at the plate before being sent to Buffalo. He came back in August and batted .278 with five homers and 20 RBI over his final 31 games.

"It's going to take awhile to get my timing back, but the good news is that in the repair area, I haven't had any problems. I know I had the best surgeon possible and that gives me confidence to go out there and not be afraid of ripping it up again. Now it is just about getting the other parts of my body back in shape. He said that it is sewn so tight that it isn't going anywhere."

Bard said he was alarmed after the surgery because he felt worse than before the operation.

"It was painful to even sit down and I couldn't stand up straight, either," he said. "I asked the doctor about this and he told me, 'I really tightened you up because we don't want this thing coming back. Everything will be fine.'

"He was right. Little by little, I've been able to get back to normal."

Bard said it is still too early for him to resume the rigors of catching, but he hopes to put on his gear soon.

"I think that right now, we're going to start DHing here in Akron," he said. "Luddy (Ryan Ludwick) and I are going to flip-flop at DH and then once I get past the next step I'll start catching and hopefully I can come back and contribute in any way I can in Cleveland. "That's part of the reason we took as long as we did, first of all the long rest, and now the long rehab. I can't say enough about Lonnie Soloff and Jim Mehalik, our trainer and physical therapist up at Jacobs Field.

"I know those guys would never put me in harms way and they have been real smart about everything. It has been hard for me, but you have to be honest with your body and wait until you feel like you are ready to play. I feel ready to play now."

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