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Why No Paul Byrd?

When Red Sox manager Terry Francona brought in Mike Timlin to start the bottom of the 11th inning last night, Boston fans could have expected the Tampa Bay walk-off win that followed. Once a sturdy reliever, the 2008 Timlin is a shadow of his former self, both the version that helped prop up the Red Sox bullpen in 2005 and the version that once was on the mound for the final pitch of a Toronto World Series title (yes, he's that old).

The 2008 Timlin tossed out a 5.66 ERA and had four losses in only 47 games of work. For comparison, those four setbacks are more than he had in 81 games of work in 2005, and he spent much of that year as a closer. If that wasn't enough, two of those losses came against these Rays.

What are we getting at here? Well, when Francona went for Timlin, he still had another option: veteran starter Paul Byrd.

Byrd is on the Red Sox roster for a reason. He's a crafty and clever pitcher, and while his guile can't get him out of every jam, it was good enough for him to rack up a 4-2 record with Boston since the Red Sox added him for the stretch run. Needless to say, plenty of his eight starts came against top notch competition (though, interestingly, none came against the Rays).

But wait, there's more. Another potential Byrd advantage is that the Rays haven't seen him this season at all! When Byrd was still pitching for the Indians, he missed the teams only two series against Tampa Bay early in the season. For some pitchers that might not be an advantage, but for Byrd it probably is. The 6-foot-1 righty uses a bizarre, double windup that has a tendency to throw off hitters, and might be just the kind of weapon to unnerve the Rays hitters.

Add to that Byrd's stats in his three most recent trip to the postseason -- last year's ALDS and ALCS -- where he was 2-0 while allowing a total of four runs over 14 innings against the Yankees and Red Sox, and one has to wonder why Francona decided against throwing him instead of Timlin.

Could Francona be saving Byrd for a surprise Game 6 start after Beckett's second straight nightmarish playoff outing? And if so, why would that keep him from using Byrd as a reliever five days beforehand, which would put him on "normal rest"?

It's a confounding question, and one which you'd imagine will get put under the microscope for the next 24 hours, as the ALCS shifts to Boston.

By Cameron Smith  |  October 12, 2008; 2:12 PM ET
Categories:  Rays , Red Sox  
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Comments

I thought Byrd would have started the 5th inning once the Sox had the lead. Timlin, in theory, is the low leverage reliever. Mop up guy and routs. That is how he has been useed in the regular season. Tie game in the 11th is not low leverage. I agree Byrd in the 11th for as long as he can go would have made sense.

Posted by: PTBNL | October 12, 2008 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Second guesses in Boston today:

1) Leaving Beckett in for the 5th;
2) Using Timlin in 11th / why is he on the roster;
3) Failure to start Casey vs. Kazmir when he has been a better hitter vs. lefties past few years than Kotsay; and
4) leading off Ellsbury (L) and not Crisp (S) (this is a bit of hindsight but Ellsbury has not had much success since his bloop single).

Thing to watch in game 3 - LHP have an advantage in the twilight at Fenway.

I'll enjoy the leaves on my way back to Crystal City tomorrow. If you pick up on the travel article and go to New Haven, grab a coffee or tea at Publick Cup on York St. Good ice cream at Ashley's next door.

Posted by: PTBNL | October 12, 2008 7:50 PM | Report abuse

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