04/02/2007 1:10 PM ET
Byrd balances baseball and family
After 13 years of pitching in the big leagues, Paul Byrd knows not to look too far into the future.
Paul Byrd went 10-9 with a 4.88 ERA in 31 starts and 179 innings with the Tribe last season. (Jim Mone/AP)
"I take it one year at a time, because my kids are 10 and 11," the Cleveland Indians' hurler told the Akron Beacon Journal. "My children and my wife are super-important. What if I planned to play five more years, and my wife said she wanted me home?"
It's not that Byrd doesn't love being a Major League pitcher, it's just that he has other things to focus on.
"I love to play baseball in the big leagues," Byrd said. "But I also love my family. It's not that easy to balance the two. People look at me like I'm crazy. They tell me, 'I'd love to have your job,' but it does come with a price."
Part of that price is torn loyalties.
"You have to be fully committed to baseball and fully committed to your wife and family," he said. "It's not easy to be totally committed to both, and that's the hardest part."
It doesn't hurt that his wife, Kym, is supportive.
"She likes to support me, but she's not a baseball fan," Byrd said. "She comes to games when I pitch, and every now and then.
"If she never came, I wouldn't like it. I like to look up in the stands and see that she's there. I feel like we're a team. But if she came to every game, I would think something was wrong."
Being gone up to 130 days a year, thanks to so much travel, it's hard for Byrd to come and go from his own home sometimes.
"It's not comfortable for me to be away for (parts of) eight months," he said. "The first couple of days after the season is over, I follow my wife around the house. She ends up saying, 'Get out of here.'"
When you upset a routine, like Byrd does, that'll tend to happen.
"I come home after the season, pick up the kids from school and wrestle around with them on the floor or play Wiffle ball," he said. "Now, they're not focusing on their homework.
"My wife will say she has a schedule for them, and I've ruined it. When I come home, she calls it, 'shuttle re-entry,' "
Rabelo heading north: Detroit catcher Mike Rabelo is breaking camp with the Tigers, and anyone and everyone around him keeps telling him the same thing -- he needs to relax.
"Yes," Rabelo told the Detroit Free Press. "That's the major thing. I need to do that.
"And I'm learning. I've asked other guys. They said, 'If you're not nervous, if you're not real intense, then something's wrong.' I just have to learn how to deal with that, to channel it. That'll be the main thing.
"Everybody who gets to that level, after you work so hard, you want to show everybody. I just have to stay within myself."
As veteran catcher Vance Wilson sits on the DL with nerve irritation in his elbow, Rabelo is holding down his spot. And he's doing so with a smile on his face.
"In four hours, we'll be on an airplane to Detroit," he said. "In 48, we'll be standing for the national anthem. It's surreal."
Teixeira looks for consistency all year: Texas Rangers first baseman Mark Teixeira had a solid season last year, hitting 33 home runs and driving in 110 runs. However, most of that damage came in the second half as Teixeira hit only .275 with nine homers and 49 RBIs before the All-Star break.
With the 2007 season starting, Teixeira doesn't want a repeat of his 2006 start.
"I think I got better in a few aspects of my game last year, but I was inconsistent the first half," Teixeira told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "So I learned from it, and hopefully that's going to make me a better player."
As for the reason for the struggles at the plate, Teixeira blames himself.
"It was just me trying too hard," Teixeira said. "We had a team that was in the thick of things the first few months of the season and our offense wasn't producing like we had expected, and so I just tried too much."
Teixeira, however, gives credit to hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo for his turnaround at the plate in the second half. Jaramillo missed most of the first half the season recovering from an illness.
"As soon as me and Rudy got right together, I took off from there," Teixeira said.
"I know his swing well enough," Jaramillo said. "I was just trying to get him back to things he was doing before. ... He got his trust back, he got his confidence back. I told him he was going to have a big second half and he did. There was no doubt in my mind."
Francis looks to build on solid spring: Colorado Rockies starter Jeff Francis heads into the 2007 season with a lot of confidence after experiencing a good spring, something he has not always experienced in the past.
"It was better. I have had bad springs for pretty much my whole professional career. It was nice to get outs and get out of jams and be able to figure it out," Francis told the Rocky Mountain News. "I would not say (the spring) was good or great, but it was better than what I have been used to."
In his last outing of the spring against the White Sox, Francis mixed in his changeup with his fastball to hold Chicago hitless for 4 2/3 innings until allowing an infield single to Kenny Perry in the fifth inning.
"He pitched well again and had fastball command on both sides of the plate. His curveball and changeup were sharp," Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said. "Any time he felt he slipped away from something he got right back on track."
Young Mets make the cut: The Mets rounded out their Opening Day roster by naming outfielder Lastings Milledge and pitcher Ambiorix Burgos to the team.
Burgos won a spot in the bullpen. One reason is because Burgos features a mid-90s fastball. As for Milledge, it is a chance to prove he can play well on the Major League level after not living up to the hype surrounding him last season.
"A lot of people expect a lot of things out of me," Milledge told Newsday. "When I start doing those things, and when people can actually look at me in a key situation or I'm coming through for the team, that's when I'll start getting excited. Right now, I'm on the team, I have a spot and I'm grateful and excited. But it don't stop here."
Currently, Shawn Green is the starting right fielder for the Mets. But Milledge will see playing time, often against left-handers, or else the Mets probably would have sent him to Triple-A New Orleans.
"We'll see how the season goes," manager Willie Randolph said. "From day to day, things change. But he's on this team to play when I can use him and he's going to basically be available any time I call on him. I don't believe in putting roles on people or putting tags or labels on guys. He's part of our team."
Mitre closes strong: In his final tuneup before the start of the regular season, Marlins pitcher Sergio Mitre struck out six batters and allowed just one run during his five-inning stint, in the team's 6-2 win over the Reds.
"I threw fastball, curveball and changeup, trying to throw everything for strikes," Mitre told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "I was trying to expand the zone. I think I ended up good today so I'll go ahead and take it into the season, I guess. I threw the ball pretty good all spring. I feel good, I'm healthy right now."
Manager Fredi Gonzalez was pleased with Mitre's work this Spring.
"He's pitched that way every time out," Gonzalez said. "His fastball had a nice sink to it. That's what we've seen through the whole Spring Training."
Zimmerman becoming the face of the Nationals: Just two years into his Major League career, Ryan Zimmerman has become the face of the franchise for the Washington Nationals. Zimmerman takes it all in stride, even if others worry about the pressure it might put on the team's young star.
"I want him to be one of many faces for the franchise," Nationals President Stan Kasten told the Washington Post. "I don't want to put it all on his shoulders."
The Nationals are a young team, so it figures that the star of the squad would be a youngster. The team has made Zimmerman the focus of its advertising campaign in the drive to sell season tickets.
"He's articulate," Kasten said. "He's athletically gifted. He's bright. He's telegenic. He's a good person. Did I leave anything out?"
Zimmerman has not gotten a big ego about being the player the franchise is pinning its hopes on.
"I don't say 'I hope I can go out and have a year so that I can be on a billboard in D.C. or get some endorsement deal,'" Zimmerman said. "But as far as the team using me, if that's what the people in the city want, if that's what gets them to come out and watch us play, that's great."
Lighter Felix adds slider to his arsenal: A 12-game winner in 2006, Felix Hernandez showed up for Spring Training 10 pounds lighter and proceeded to go 3-0. He will take the mound for the Mariners as the team's Opening Day starter.
"I've worked hard for this," Hernandez told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "It's one of the best times of my career, to start the opener."
Hernandez can dial his fastball up to the mid-90s. He also throws a curveball and a change. Now, he's added a slider to his arsenal.
"I think the slider is going to be a big pitch for him," pitching coach Rafael Chaves said. "It could be a huge pitch for him. We worked on it a lot this spring, and he threw it a lot."
Manager Mike Hargrove worries about Hernandez's youth, but has no doubt that his young ace is a special talent.
"When Felix is in control of himself, he's in control of the game," Hargrove said. "When he's not, he tends to overthrow. But that's something that all kids -- and some veterans -- do, although the veteran guys tend to not let it go on too long.
"Felix came to me and said he wanted to be the Opening Day starter. And he did nothing to make me think he's not ready for it."
-- Red Line Editorial