The rapid turnaround is something that nobody could have expected — not even Byrd himself.
“I came in with no expectations, other than I was just really hoping to give our team six or seven innings, a quality start,” Byrd said in his postgame news conference. “I’m trying to help the bullpen, I’m trying to get my feet wet.”
That didn’t take long, as the 38-year-old retired six of the first eight Blue Jay batters. Settled in nicely, Byrd was able to go six innings, giving up just three hits, three walks and no runs.
“I know I’ve been off for a few months, but it felt like I’d been doing it the whole year,” he said. “I felt like I could throw the ball on different sides of the plate. I felt really, really good.”
It wasn’t too long ago that Sunday’s scenario was nothing more than a dream for Byrd. He had hoped to get involved with a team around the All-Star break, but he wasn’t getting any calls. He then started throwing Wiffle Balls to one of his sons in his backyard and batting practice to his other son’s 13 and under baseball team.
“I kind of learned that I’m not Roger Clemens,” he said. “I thought it might be
over. … Then the Red Sox called and I jumped all over it.”
Byrd told the Sox that he didn’t know how long he needed to be ready to pitch in the majors. He threw to some college kids in Atlanta and was encouraged with where he was at physically.
“When I was throwing to [the 13-year-olds], I [was throwing] about 75, and I only throw about 82 anyway, so it wasn’t much for me to turn it up and get to where I needed to get to,” he said. “I was talking to a few other teams, but when the Red Sox entered the picture, it was just the right situation for me, because I’m comfortable here, I know the people. I just really appreciated the opportunity to get back.
For his efforts, Byrd earned the game ball. More importantly, he earned a big win for a team in a fight for a playoff spot.