Byrd flies from Cleveland to Boston
Roster space freed, $2 million saved as vet gets playoff chance
CLEVELAND -- The news sent Paul Byrd's mind into a whirling merry-go-round of emotions -- and just a little bit of confusion.Byrd arrived to the Indians' clubhouse at his usual time Tuesday, and, before he could change into his uniform, was told by pitching coach Carl Willis that he needed to put his shirt back on and go to Eric Wedge's office. He had been traded to the Red Sox for a player to be named or cash. "I was kind of ambushed," Byrd said. "It kind of was a surprise to me and an emotional moment." So, as he cleaned out his locker with the help of a clubhouse attendant, Byrd grabbed a pair of blue socks -- the same socks he had worn in arguably the four best consecutive starts of his 14-year career -- and wondered aloud if he should take the lucky pair with him. He had to be reminded, of course, that, in Boston, they only wear red socks. "My head's still spinning a little bit," Byrd said. The Red Sox will pay the remainder of his $7.5 million salary -- which should amount to around $2 million, Shapiro said -- and that will likely be it. Unlike the CC Sabathia trade, where the player to be named was seen as integral, Byrd's trade is about giving more opportunities to players on the fringe of being back for 2009. "This really isn't about the player we're getting back," Shapiro said. "It's about us having the opportunity the rest of the way to make some additional decisions, see some additional guys. ... It's certainly about giving Paul a chance to finish the year on a contender and, obviously, about payroll reasons." Shapiro said he and Wedge will decide who to call up to replace Byrd, scheduled to start Thursday against the Orioles, after Tuesday's game. The likely candidates are Triple-A Buffalo left-handers Aaron Laffey and Zach Jackson, both of whom would be on at least four days' rest to make the start Thursday. Once the July 31 Trade Deadline passes, teams must put players through waivers before trading them. Every other team has the option of claiming a waived player, in reverse order of the standings. The team putting the player through waivers can then either let the player go, pull him back or try to work out a deal with the team that claimed the player. There were a number of ongoing discussions involving Byrd before the Trade Deadline, Shapiro said, but nothing came to fruition and the talks subsequently fizzled. But once Byrd began to turn around his poor 2008 campaign and a number of contenders lost key players to injuries, the talks resumed -- and in a hurry. "The way he pitched made things come together pretty quickly," Shapiro said. Boston is getting Byrd at his best. After a rough first half in which he seemingly couldn't keep the ball in the park, Byrd changed his windup, rediscovered his curveball, curtailed the home runs and had gone 4-0 with a 1.24 ERA in four starts since the All-Star break. He is 7-10 with a 4.53 ERA in 22 starts overall. "He's been very dependable," Wedge said. "He's had some ups and downs, but the year he had last year was a very big year for us and he was a big contributor." With a 15-win season in 2007, Byrd was instrumental in helping the Indians tie the Red Sox for the best record in baseball. And his win in Game 4 of the AL Division Series with the Yankees set up a date with Boston in the ALCS. But Byrd's involvement in the ALCS will best be remembered for the controversy that erupted regarding his admitted use of human-growth hormones. The story leaked in the San Francisco Chronicle the morning of Game 7, forcing Byrd to hold an impromptu press conference in the hall outside the visitors' clubhouse at Fenway Park. Byrd dismissed the irony surrounding his return to Boston in regards to the HGH scandal. He did say, however, that it may be a little tough at first to side with the team that derailed Cleveland's pennant hopes less than a year ago. "I wasn't a Red Sox fan this offseason, let's put it that way," Byrd said. "For me to now put on that jersey may take a minute." Byrd's best moment in Cleveland may have come in his last start at Progressive Field. After tossing 7 2/3 scoreless innings against the Tigers on July 28, Byrd left the field to a standing ovation. "I haven't had the greatest year," said the 37-year-old Byrd, who is 104-91 with a 4.37 ERA in 330 career appearances. "For them to have never booed me here, always cheered for me, and for them to do that when I walked off the field that last time, that's pretty special for me. "Cleveland has been great to me." But, for now at least, Boston may be the better place for Byrd, who said he is throwing the ball as well as he ever has. "As a little boy, I always wanted to be in the World Series and try and win one," said Byrd, who will make his Red Sox debut Friday against the Blue Jays. "I'll be in a better situation over there, as far as the postseason is concerned, and I'll have the opportunity to accomplish what I always wanted to do." It will just have to happen with a new pair of socks.
Andrew Gribble is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Anthony Castrovince contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.