His stat line may not indicate it, but Paul Byrd's first Triple-A start for Pawtucket was a success … at least according to Byrd himself, a 38-year-old veteran of 13 seasons.
"There were a lot of swings and misses. There were a lot of missed hits. There was a lot of foul balls where they were out in front, and I beat them. I needed that. I needed to see that, that I wasn't going to be throwing batting practice, and that my fastball had life," Byrd told projo.com.
The right-hander, who came out of retirement just a couple of weeks ago to join the Red Sox organization, threw 74 pitches and was touched up for three earned runs on six hits as the PawSox lost to Rochester 5-1 in the nightcap of a day-night doubleheader at McCoy Stadium on Wednesday.
"I probably need one more [start], one more for sure. But after that, probably not," he added. "I'd like to get my pitch count up into the 90s, I'd like to see that slider get a hair better, and we'll probably go from there."
Byrd was hitting the mid-80s on the radar gun consistently. Although certainly not overpowering, it's exactly what Byrd was hoping for.
"There's 85-86 that leaves the park, and then there's 85-86 that's sneaky and cuts and sinks, and guys can't figure it out. I needed to see that I still had that, and for the most part, I did," Byrd said. "It's not how many runs you give up, it's what kind of life you have on your fastball, what kind of swings they're taking, how comfortable you are and whether I can command my pitches in the zone and stay out of the middle."
According to Pawtucket manager Ron Johnson, there was plenty of life on all of Byrd's pitches.
"It's fun to watch him, because he throws a lot of pitches, he gets a lot of movement," Johnson said, suddenly darting his arms left, right, up and down. "[The ball] goes this way, and this way, and this way, and this way. And he's got a feel for everything he's throwing. When you see experience, at that level, of what this guy has done in his career, it's fun to watch."
The 5-1 loss was Pawtucket's ninth in a row — its longest losing streak since dropping 10 straight in 1993. Jeff Bailey smacked a solo shot over the right field wall for Pawtucket's lone run.