10/16/07 12:15 AM ET
Byrd hopes to follow Westbrook's lead
Game 4 starter says being aggressive key to beating Sox
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
He also won his first playoff start this year, holding the New York Yankees to two runs on eight hits over five innings in a 6-4 victory in Game 4 that wrapped up the AL Division Series for the Indians. The victory vindicated Wedge, who had to spend a lot of time before the game explaining why he wasn't bringing back the hard-throwing C.C. Sabathia on three days to pitch for such a big game."I think the whole world wanted C.C. on the mound except for my mom, Eric Wedge and my wife," Byrd said. Byrd found a way to win, as he often has this year. This is a guy who looks for every possible advantage, including the old-fashioned, over-the-top windup that he developed after coming back from a shoulder injury in 2002. "I could see the writing on the wall," Byrd said. "I couldn't throw the ball very hard. So I went out when nobody was around, and I just prayed and said, 'Hey, I'm not looking at you here for healing or anything like that, but I'd love to stay in the game. I don't know how that's possible because I'm throwing 81 and I need to do something to shake it up and be deceptive.' "So I started swinging my arms kind of as a trial-and-error thing out on the back mound. Next day, I took that into batting practice. Hitters said they didn't like it at all, they couldn't pick up the ball. I thought maybe I'm onto something here, and the motion in my delivery before I started gave me a little momentum, and I think that's helped, helped me through the years [to] be deceptive." Another advantage that Byrd seems to have is having Kelly Shoppach behind the plate as his personal catcher. It started in Spring Training, when the Indians were worried that teams might have a better chance of stealing on Byrd because he was slow to the plate. So Wedge put Shoppach behind the plate because of his strong arm, liked what he saw and kept him there the entire season. That included the playoff game against the Yankees and will extend to Tuesday's start against the Red Sox. Shoppach will catch and Victor Martinez will move to first. It's a relationship that grew from early in the season and just kind of took on a life of its own," Wedge said. "We don't want to do anything to disrupt that." Big windup. Personal catcher. Go after hitters. Follow the example of Jake Westbrook. Byrd has his blueprint ready for Tuesday night. He knows it by heart, having won 16 games with it up to this point of the season.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.