Brief tenure belies Byrd's connection to Bucs
PITTSBURGH -- Marlon Byrd's time in Pittsburgh was not long, but it was memorable. He made sure of that with one swing of the bat, which sent 40,487 black-clad Pirates fans into a frenzy last October.
Byrd, whom the Bucs acquired from the Mets last August, spent just 30 regular-season games and six postseason games with the Pirates. But he was an important acquisition as the team made the playoffs for the first time since 1992. On Friday, the outfielder stepped into a PNC Park batter's box for the first time since October, striking out in a Phillies uniform in the second inning.
Byrd hit .318/.357/.486 in his 30 regular-season contests with the Pirates, and his second-inning home run off Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto opened the scoring in Pittsburgh's Wild Card Game victory. Byrd, 36, said that game was his favorite memory of the month and a half he called the Steel City home, but he said he cherished "every second."
"It was a great experience, being in this city," he said. "Seeing everyone wearing Pittsburgh Pirates jerseys instead of Steelers jerseys in September was very different for this city."
Byrd, who had a .364 average, .982 OPS and five RBIs in six playoff games -- the first postseason experience of his 13-year career -- signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Phillies this offseason. He said teams were aggressive when trying to sign him and that he thought his strong finish with the Pirates had something to do with it.
"It changed [my career] around," Byrd said. "Not just showing last year, coming back and re-establishing myself. It showed I could play in the playoffs and help a team win. It was huge, especially for a team that was ready to win."
Pirates fans were re-introduced to Byrd on Friday as the Phillies and Bucs opened a three-game set. Byrd entered the series hitting .267 with 16 homers and 49 RBIs this season, and he batted fifth in the Phillies' order.
"One warm reception and then boos after that," Byrd said of what he anticipated from the crowd. "It's a great city with great fans; they love their teams. They know what I did here last year."