It was 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Paul Byrd, now of the Boston Red Sox, sat in the Cleveland dugout, his head still spinning.
“They [Cleveland management] told me a couple of days ago that I had cleared waivers, so I figured no other team was interested in me and I was here [Cleveland] to stay,” said Byrd.
“I arrived at the clubhouse about 2:30 today and was getting dressed for the game when someone told me to put my shirt back on and go see the GM,” smiled Byrd.
That’s when he learned he would be off to Boston.
“It was a surprise and my head was everywhere at once,” Byrd said. “I even said to the clubie that maybe I should pack my lucky blue game socks. He looked at me like I was nuts and said, ‘I think they only wear red socks over there.’
Byrd is happy with the deal, even if he is just a hired gun for the rest of this season. “This is what I have always wanted to do – have a chance to win it all,” he said.
“The deal was kind of ironic,” Byrd mused. “The Red Sox weren’t exactly my favorite team this off-season.”
Byrd pitched against the Sox for Cleveland last year in the LCS and won a game. The Indians, however, lost the series in seven.
“I’m 37,” said Byrd. “You only get so many chances.”
He said he loves the pressure of chasing a pennant. “You should love pressure – always.”
He is a hot pitcher and that will only add to the pressure as he makes his start Friday night. While 7-10 on the year with a 4.37 ERA, he is 4-0 in four starts since the All-Star break with a 1.24 ERA.
“I am as confident as a pitcher right now as I have ever been,” says Byrd. “I’m getting lefthanders out and my breaking ball is better than it’s been all year.”
The Indians, who have had a disastrous season after the LCS appearance last year, were willing to give Byrd away for a player to be named later and the saving of $2 million.
That $2 million will go toward players for next year, especially in reorganizing the bullpen, and that made Byrd expendable.
Byrd laughed on Tuesday when he said, “Who knows. I may be back here [Cleveland] next year if the Red Sox let me go as a free agent.”
That is for the future. For now it’s a chance to win the whole darn thing, play in what should be a tremendous finish in the race for the AL east crown and/or a wild-card spot.
Byrd is a quiet, caring, hard working veteran who values every day he is in uniform. He overpowers no one on the mound, but he knows how to pitch.
At 37 Byrd has a new opportunity, a new door entered and an old dream pursued.