Pittsburgh Pirates: Marlon Byrd Will Play A Key Role In 2013 LDS

By James Williams
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There can be no question that the August trade that sent Marlon Byrd from the New York Mets to the Pittsburgh Pirates has help the Bucs. In Tuesday night’s NL Wild Card game in Pittsburgh against the Cincinnati Reds, he took a Johnny Cueto slider and hit it out a supercharged PNC Park.

The reinvigorated Byrd is a far more complete player than he has ever been in his 12-year career. He has always had a power, but now he has the defensive skills that he lacked throughout his career. That is very good news for the Pirates as they start the NLDS on the road against the St. Louis Cardinals today at 5 p.m. EDT on TBS.

Byrd wants to prove to all of baseball that he still has what it takes to be a star, and this is just the stage he can use to show those teams that gave up on him that they were wrong. Byrd’s story on how he got to the Pirates is a very interesting one, and let me share just a small portion of it with you now.

One year ago, the last thing on Byrd’s mind was playing baseball in the NLDS for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was playing baseball for Cuilacan in the Mexican Pacific League — that my friends, is about as far from MLB baseball as you can get.

His goal was to return to the big leagues with someone — anyone in the Spring of 2013. After all, Byrd played 1,250 big league games and at 36, this is his first taste of postseason baseball. He came up with the Philadelphia Phillies back in 2002 at the age 24. He has a professional hitter with power, but his  fielding skills were suspect.

Byrd had a year with the Washington Nationals in 2005, and then it was onto a brief stint with the Texas Rangers in 2007. He was a free agent in 2010 signed with the Chicago Cubs, and Byrd made his first All-Star team in 2011. On April 21, 2012, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Michael Bowden and a player to be named later.

The other player turned out to be Minor League pitcher Hunter Cervenka. Then his career took a bad turn when in June of that same year, he was suspended by the MLB for PED use. Byrd thought that his career was over and he headed to Mexico to see if he could hit the reset button getting to the big leagues.

Byrd worked on every aspect of the game and this past spring, and the Mets took a flyer on him because they were desperate need of outfielders. Byrd proved that he could still hit and now he has improved defense skills.

So now a new and improved version of Byrd is with the Pirates, and there is no doubt that he can help with his bat. The addition of his defensive skills should serve Pittsburgh well they head to St. Louis to face the Cardinals.

Rant Sports columnist James Williams is a seven time Emmy Award winning producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Wordmandc and add him to your Google circles.

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