BYRD WATCHING

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BYRD WATCHING

Over 22 starts with the Indians this year, Paul Byrd went 7-10, with a 4.53 ERA. Those numbers, combined with the fact that Byrd is a free agent after this year, persuaded a disappointing and under-achieving Cleveland team to put him on waivers.

It was quite surprising that the veteran actually cleared waivers. Since no one claimed him, the Sox were subsequently able to strike a deal with the Indians.

But Red Sox fielders will be kept busy during Byrd's outings. The 37-year-old truly pitches to contact, and will rely on an excellent defense behind him to keep runs off the board.

In 138.1 innings this season, Byrd has given up 156 hits, to go along with 24 walks. Though the walk total is among the best in baseball (9th out of 98 big league pitchers), it still amounts to 180 baserunners over those 138.1 innings. That's worrisome. And Byrd is not a strike out pitcher, fanning just 56 batters this season. That amounts to just one K every 2 1/2 innings.

The stark reality is that Paul Byrd gives up more than a hit per inning and has a WHIP of 1.3. That's a lot of base-runners, and it's kind of scary.

All of this means that when Byrd is on the mound, the ball is often put in play. And that results in too many baserunners. And baserunners ultimately lead to runs. What's more, Byrd has allowed 25 HR, this season, tied for most in the AL.

So, you may ask, why did the Sox make a move for him? Well, there is an upside.

When the Sox acquired him, Byrd was tied for the most wins since the All Star break. Though he'd started the year poorly, Byrd had won all four of his starts since the break, with a 1.24 ERA. In each three of those starts he went at least seven innings, and he'd pitched his first complete game of the season in his final start with the Indians, a 4-2 win against Toronto, in which he out-dueled Jays ace Roy Halladay.

But in his first start with the Sox, Byrd went 7.1 innings, giving up four runs on 10 hits, and took the loss. Not exactly what the Sox were hoping for.

Interestingly, Byrd credits 287-game winner Bert Blyleven with helping him to rediscover his curve ball after a recent lesson. And it's that conversation to which he attributes his subsequent success.

In all, Byrd is a good, veteran pickup for the Sox, who obviously have no faith in Clay Buchholz, or in the health of Bartolo Colon.

Just hope the Sox play stellar defense whenever Byrd pitches over the remaining six weeks, and hopefully longer.

Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

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