Byrd is happy with new landing spot
CHICAGO - Saturday marked the one-week anniversary of the Red Sox obtaining center fielder Marlon Byrd from the Chicago Cubs.
For the 34-year-old Byrd, the trade so far has been one of the best moves of his career. He is 8 for 24 in his first six games after going 1 for 2 in Saturday night’s 1-0 victory over the White Sox.
“When you change organizations, you usually don’t know what to expect,’’ Byrd said. “But when you go to a team like the Red Sox, Yankees, or Phillies, you have a good idea. Those teams have something that has been set in place for 10 years or even more.
“I knew this was a good team and built to win. I’ve played against everybody on this team before and played with some of them. I had an idea that I was getting involved with something that would be special.’’
Byrd was 3 for 43 (.070) in 13 games for the Cubs when the Red Sox picked him up for righthander Michael Bowden and a player to be named.
Hitting coach Dave Magadan reviewed film of Byrd’s 2009 season with Texas, when he hit .293 with 65 extra-base hits, and noticed that his hands were a little farther back when he started his swing.
“It was a little going back to basics, and it helped me big time,’’ Byrd said. “My timing is much better. Dave told me that the first day. Mags is good at what he does.’’
Given that the Red Sox were casting about looking for any available outfielder following the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury to a shoulder injury, Byrd has done better than expected.
“I just like his energy,’’ said manager Bobby Valentine. “He’s got bounce in his step. He’s ready to go. We’re getting used to his approach. But he’s getting hits, that’s all that matters.’’
What Byrd didn’t know coming in was what kind of personality the Red Sox had as a group. But he has been impressed.
“These guys are tight-knit,’’ he said. “This is one of the closest teams I’ve been around. It has been easy for me to fit in.’’
Said shortstop Mike Aviles, “He’s good guy, a cool guy. And he plays hard. If you play hard, it’s going to work out for you.’’
Through Friday, Bowden had appeared in one game for the Cubs, throwing a scoreless inning last Tuesday.
Cook to the bullpen?
Veteran righthander Aaron Cook, who has pitched well for Pawtucket, can opt out of his contract Tuesday if he’s not brought to the majors by the Sox.
With no apparent opening in the rotation, the Sox are discussing the idea of using Cook in the bullpen. That would keep him available should a need arise.
“There have been discussions,’’ Valentine said. “[Pitching coach] Bob McClure thinks it’s feasible. Initially there was no [chance]. In spring training, that was a nonfactor, a non-consideration.’’
Cook’s shoulder issues once precluded him from regular relief work. But that has changed.
“When I talked to him right before [the end of spring training], he said he felt he could pitch out of the bullpen,’’ McClure said. “Before, I don’t think he could have physically. But he said his shoulder hadn’t felt this way in years.’’
McClure said Cook’s sinkerball would play well out of the bullpen.
“It’s not strikeout stuff, but it’s mis-hit stuff,’’ he said. “He had a strong spring training.’’
Cook is 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in five starts for Pawtucket, after getting a no-decision in the PawSox’ 6-4 loss Saturday night in Columbus. He went 6 1/3 innings, allowing three runs and five hits.
Righting the ship
The Tigers hit Josh Beckett hard in his first start of the season. The righthander gave up seven runs on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings. Of the seven hits, five were home runs.
In his three starts since then, Beckett has allowed six earned runs on 17 hits over 21 innings with five walks and 13 strikeouts. He will face the White Sox Sunday.
“I think I caught the Tigers at the wrong time,’’ Beckett said. “They had big crowds and they were all excited and they hit the ball well that whole series. I didn’t pitch very well. But that’s what happens in your first one sometimes.’’
Beckett is averaging 91.7 miles per hour with his fastball, a drop from 93 in 2011 and 93.6 in 2010. He attributes that to several factors.
“The biggest thing is that I’m still building up some arm strength,’’ he said. “I think you’ll see the velocity improve a little as we get into the season. I’m not too worried about it.’’
Beckett also is getting good action on his cutter, a pitch he has come to rely on more in recent seasons.
At 31, he’s at that age where power pitchers come to realize their limitations and make adjustments accordingly.
“I think I’m pitching to location pretty well and not trying to blow it past everybody,’’ he said. “Maybe I’m maturing.’’
Beckett also has put to rest fears that the thumb injury he started the season with would affect his pitching.
“That was a little hectic, going to San Antonio and then Cleveland [to have his thumb examined by specialists] before that first start,’’ he said. “Now everything has settled in a little bit.’’
The Red Sox started the day leading the majors in runs with 114 and were 29th in runs allowed at 114 . . . David Ortiz’s home run Friday was the 382d of his career, ninth among active players. Ortiz has hit 324 of those home runs for the Red Sox. He is fifth in team history, but he won’t be catching Dwight Evans (379) or Jim Rice (382) any time soon . . . NESN’s Jerry Remy missed Saturday’s game because of illness and is not expected to be in the booth Sunday.