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Marlon Byrd

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Marlon Jerrard Byrd

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[edit] Biographical Information

Much like outfielder Reggie Taylor, Marlon Byrd was once a highly touted outfield prospect for the Philadelphia Phillies. Drafted in the 10th round of the 1999 amateur draft out of Georgia Perimeter Junior College, Byrd stormed through the minor leagues, posting incredible power and speed numbers. In the minors, Byrd had a good batting eye, batting near .300 every season.

He began his minor league career with the 1999 Batavia Muckdogs of the New York-Penn League, hitting .296/~.369/.535 and led his team in homers (13) and RBI (50). Third in the league in home runs, he was named to the All-Star team at DH. In 2000, Marlon played for the Piedmont Boll Weevils and posted a .309/.375/.515 line. Strong across the board, he scored 104 runs, rapped 13 triples, cracked 17 homers, drove in 93 and stole 41 bases in 46 tries. He led the South Atlantic League in triples, extra-base hits (59) and total bases (265), was sixth in average and made the league's All-Star team in the outfield.

Selected by Baseball America as Philadelphia's 10th-best prospect entering 2001, Byrd almost joined Jeromy Burnitz as the second 30-30 man in Eastern League history. Named MVP for his work for the Reading Phillies, he led the loop's outfielders in fielding percentage (.994) and hit .316/.386/.555. He stole 32 bases in 37 attempts, scored 108 runs and homered 28 times. BA ranked him after the year as the second-best EL prospect (after Josh Beckett), the top Philadelphia prospect and the second-best outfield prospect in baseball (after Joe Borchard).

Making his fourth All-Star team in four seasons, Byrd was an All-Star OF in the 2002 International League after leading the circuit in runs (103), total bases (256) and extra-base hits (59). Hitting .297/.362/.476, Byrd stole 15 bases in 16 attempts and knocked 37 doubles (two behind league leader Chase Utley and 15 homers. Byrd reached the majors as a September call-up in 2002, playing 8 games in center field and 2 in right field.

When Byrd debuted as the starting center fielder for the Phillies on September 8, 2002, the second baseman was Marlon Anderson, the only other "Marlon" in the history of Major League baseball. Before Byrd had a plate appearance or made a play in the field that day, his Manager Larry Bowa had already been ejected.

Byrd struggled in those 10 games, and after the season he weighed an astonishing 235 pounds. [1] He was supposed to have lost 15 pounds in the off-season, and became the Phillies' starting center fielder for the 2003 season. Though Byrd posted quality numbers (.303/.366/.418) with solid defense, they were a far cry from his minor league numbers in terms of power though certainly otherwise within expectations.

For the 2004 season, Byrd was the center fielder for two-thirds of the team's games. His numbers dropped off precipitously (.228/.287/.321) as he posted only 5 home runs and 2 stolen bases. He spent a significant amount of time with the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons, where he showed slight improvement with flashes of his former self with a .263/.323/.388 line, caught 3 times in 5 steal attempts.

Byrd came back energized for the 2005 season, determined to win a roster spot and the center fielder's job. The Phillies didn't expect such a turnaround, and had signed Kenny Lofton in the off-season to patrol the oddly-angled center field at Citizens Bank Park. In Spring Training, Byrd posted monster numbers (.390/.419/.537). The Phillies had a hard time keeping him off the roster, but he was sent to AAA. Ten games into the season, split between the majors and minors, Byrd was traded for also once-promising centerfielder Endy Chavez of the Washington Nationals. Chavez played sparingly the rest of the season, while Byrd played in 74 games with the Nats, posting disappointing numbers after a strong stint with the AAA New Orleans Zephyrs. Overall, he hit .266/.323/.376 in the majors that year, .407/.476/.667 for New Orleans in 21 games and .368/.368/.895 in five games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

For the 2006 season, Byrd played well in Spring Training (.267/.380/.433), but once again posted disappointing numbers in the majors, ending the year with a .223 average in 78 games for Washington.

Marlon Byrd made a remarkable comeback for the Texas Rangers in 2007. Taking advantage of opportunities left by the departure of outfielders Gary Matthews and Carlos Lee via free agency during the off-season, he secured a job as the team's fourth outfielder and hit a solid .307 with 17 doubles, 8 triples and 10 homers in 114 games - good for a career-high 110 OPS+ - while seeing playing time at all three outfield spots. He continued to hit well in 2008, puttihg up a batting line of .298/.380/.462 in 122 games, again as the team's fourth outfielder. He took another step forward in 2009, setting career highs for doubles with 43 and homers with 20 as he slugged .479 in 146 games. That year, he found a more regular position, playing 103 games in center field.

Byrd became a free agent and signed with the Chicago Cubs for the 2010 season. He was the team's best player that year and earned a first trip to the All-Star Game as a result. He hit .293/.346/.429 in a career-high 152 games playing exclusively in centerfield for the Cubbies. He was off to another strong season in 2011 when he was beaned by Alfredo Aceves of the Boston Red Sox on May 21st; the ball struck him just below the flap on his batting helmet and he suffered multiple facial fractures as a result. He was batting .308 in 44 games at the time. He came back to play 119 games overall, with a batting line of .276/.324/.395. He hit well immediately after coming back in July, batting .233 in 25 games during the month, but faded down the stretch to the tune of a .22q1 batting average from August 1st on.

In 2012, Byrd started the season very slowly for the Cubs, only going 3 for 43 (.070) in his first 13 games. On April 21st, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox in return for P Michael Bowden and a player to be named later. He was moving to a difficult situation, with the Sox playing poorly and badly feeling the absence of two of their starting outfielders, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford, both injured. His stay with the team lasted less than two months, as he was designated for assignment on June 9th, when the team activated P Daisuke Matsuzaka from the disabled list. He hit .270 with one homer and 7 RBI in 34 games. With Scott Podsednik and Daniel Nava playing well, the Sox decided to keep Donzell McDonald instead of him to be their fourth outfielder. Still unemployed on June 25th, he received the news that he was being suspended for 50 games for violating Major League Baseball' policy on PEDs. He had tested positive for Tamoxifen, a banned substance often taken to combat some of the side-effects of steroids use. Byrd argued that he had taken the substance for an unnamed "personal medical condition" (the substance's legal use is related to combating breast cancer), but one factor that pleaded against him was his former association with the infamous Victor Conte, a central figure in the BALCO scandal. He was the second major leaguer to be suspended that season, following Freddy Galvis of the Phillies.

On February 1, 2013, Byrd signed a minor league contract with the New York Mets. He won the team's regular right field job with a strong performance in spring training, and on Opening Day on April 1st, had two hits and as many RBIs as the Mets defeated the San Diego Padres, 11-2. He played 117 games for the Mets, hitting a solid .285 with 21 homers and 71 RBIs. With the Mets headed nowhere that year, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates alongside catcher John Buck on August 27th in exchange for prospect Dilson Herrera and a player to be named later (Vic Black). In his first team for the Bucs, he hit a three-run homer off the Milwaukee Brewers' Tom Gorzelanny on August 28th, leading the Pirates to a 7-1 win. He ended up hitting .318 in 30 games for the Pirates, for a combined batting line of .291/.336/.511 with 24 homers and 88 RBI. The homers set a new career high, and the RBIs were one short of his personal best. In his first-ever postseason appearance, in his 12th big league season, he homered off Johnny Cueto of the Cincinnati Reds in his first plate appearance of the 2013 National League Wild Card Game on October 1st. He added a hit and a run-scoring ground out off [J.J. Hoover]] later in the game to help the Pirates win, 6-2, and advance to the Division Series. He continued to hit well, going 6 for 18 with a pair of doubles as the Bucs lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in five games. A free agent after the season, he signed a two-year, $16 million contract to re-join the Phillies on November 12th.

[edit] Quotes

"He's always been a character guy and one of the hardest-working guys I've seen...he plays the game like Pete Rose." - Dickie Noles

Sources include 2000-2003, 2005-2006 Baseball Almanacs, 2005 Topps #525

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