10/11/05 12:57 AM ET
Byrd dominoes into Game 1 start
Injuries, no off-day send veteran against White Sox on Tuesday
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
He was knocked around by the Yankees in Game 3 of the American League Division Series in Yankee Stadium on Friday and didn't even make it out of the fourth inning.
The good news for Byrd is that he'll get a crack at redemption in his team's biggest game of the year so far -- Game 1 of the AL Championship Series on Tuesday evening against the White Sox in Chicago.
The Angels won the ALDS over the Yankees with a 5-3 triumph in a winner-take-all Game 5 on Monday night, and because of the Saturday rainout in New York, the ALCS starts Tuesday, giving the Angels no rest day.
Because Jarrod Washburn's throat infection hadn't cleared sufficiently for manager Mike Scioscia to declare him a go for Game 1 of the ALCS, Byrd will take the reins on three days' rest.
He said when he signed in the offseason for one year and $5 million to be the Angels' No. 5 starter, he never envisioned that he'd be the man in such a huge game.
Byrd talked then about possibly winning 15-20 games, about fitting into a clubhouse only three years removed from a World Series title, and about doing his part no matter where he fit into the rotation.
He mentioned getting to the playoffs as his main goal, but not necessarily starting the first game in the ALCS.
"It probably wasn't on my mind at the time, but it's worked out that way," Byrd said. "I'm going to enjoy it."
Byrd wasn't going to have much time to enjoy it, however.
And since the Angels lost Bartolo Colon to a shoulder injury in Game 5 and Washburn is still sick, the Angels' starting rotation is in a bit of a shambles as the team heads to Chicago.
Byrd wasn't about to worry about that Monday night as he was bathed in champagne by teammates.
"It's exciting to be heading to the next round and I'll focus on the White Sox tomorrow," Byrd said.
"We're a little depleted in pitching right now, but we just have to do our jobs and get our team deep in games. We just have to keep the momentum going."
Angels general manager Bill Stoneman has always been a huge Byrd backer. He's repeatedly said he loves Byrd's old-school windup, his penchant for throwing strikes and his competitive nature on the hill.
That's why he said he's ecstatic that Byrd gets the ball Tuesday.
"I'm delighted for him and for our team," Stoneman said. "He's a great pitcher and a nice guy to lead off the series with."
Pitching coach Bud Black was a bit more specific with his praise, noting Byrd's 12-11 regular-season record, more-than-respectable 3.74 ERA, his 22 quality starts, which ranked second in the Major Leagues, and his mound moxie.
"We're very confident with Paul going tomorrow," Black said. "He's a strike-thrower, he's a veteran, he's poised, he's composed, and we feel good about all those things.
"Great guy, too. Gamer."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.