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Byrd's Slow to Plate, but Not on Uptake

October 07, 2005|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Yankee left-hander Randy Johnson's fastball still hits 98 mph, he has a knee-buckling slider, and his 6-foot-10 frame and piercing glare give him an intimidating mound presence.

Angel right-hander Paul Byrd's fastball rarely touches 90 mph, his breaking pitches tickle rather than torch the corners, and with his old-school delivery and 6-foot-1 frame, he's about as intimidating as a slow-pitch softball hurler.

So Byrd had to chuckle when he was asked at a Yankee Stadium news conference Thursday to compare his style to Johnson's.

"That's like comparing Figgy and Bengie running, isn't it?" Byrd said, referring to speedy leadoff batter Chone Figgins and heavy-legged catcher Bengie Molina. "Is that bad to say?

"It's the Big Diesel Freight Train vs. the Little Engine That Could. I'm just a guy who is not going to overpower you. I'm going to change speeds, I'm going to work corners and try to keep you off-balance.... It will be as contrasting as styles could possibly be in my mind."

Byrd held the Yankees to three runs and nine hits in seven innings of a no-decision on July 30. The key to pitching against the Yankees, he said, "is you don't let up on anybody and think, 'Hey, I have a break, I'm facing the eighth hitter.' That doesn't happen with this lineup."


Figgins will move from third base to center field, displacing the left-handed Steve Finley, and Robb Quinlan is expected to start at third base, but that's about the only lineup concession Angel Manager Mike Scioscia plans to make against Johnson.

In a July 31 game in Yankee Stadium, Scioscia started Jose Molina at first base and Bengie Molina behind the plate, and both hit home runs against Johnson. But Scioscia said he would not consider using both Molinas, at catcher and designated hitter, and starting Juan Rivera in left field over the left-handed Garret Anderson.

And first baseman Darin Erstad and second baseman Adam Kennedy, who both bat left-handed, will most likely start.

"We have to really keep our defensive continuity, especially the guys on the right side of the infield," Scioscia said. "Kennedy and Erstad might be the best right side of the infield in our league, and it's going to be important to keep them out there, especially with Paul pitching."


Today's forecast in New York calls for showers, increasing in intensity this evening, so there is a chance the game could be rained out. If Game 3 is pushed back to Saturday, Scioscia said Byrd would still start, but if Game 4 gets pushed to Sunday, Scioscia said he would consider bringing Game 1 starter Bartolo Colon back on regular rest.

"The only thing, and I know Mike Scioscia feels the same way, is you certainly don't want to start a pitcher and have one of those one-[inning]-and-off games where you're going to wind up losing a starter," Yankee Manager Joe Torre said. "That would probably be the worst scenario for our club at this point, if we had one of those rain-stop-rain situations [tonight]."

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