Indians pick up $7.5 million option on Byrd
CLEVELAND -- Pitcher Paul Byrd, whose admitted use of human growth hormone served as a backdrop to the end of Cleveland's season, had his $7.5 million club option for 2008 picked up by the Indians on Tuesday.
Before Game 7 the American League Championship Series in Boston, Byrd acknowledged taking HGH after the San Francisco Chronicle reported he spent nearly $25,000 on the banned drug and syringes from 2002-05.
The 36-year-old Byrd claims he took HGH for a medical condition and did so only under a doctor's supervision.
Byrd has not yet met with Major League Baseball to discuss his use of the performance-enhancing drug. He could face a possible suspension.
Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said the club weighed all factors before exercising the option without hesitation.
"Looking at his on-field contributions and the teammate he's been in our clubhouse and the person he's been off the field in our community the last two years, it was a decision we were very comfortable with," Shapiro said. "It's safe to say we considered very carefully and in a detailed fashion every component of the decision."
Shapiro said he was unaware of Byrd's use of HGH until two days before Game 7. The newspaper reported Byrd had purchased HGH while pitching for the Kansas City Royals, Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Angels.
On a conference call from the GM meetings in Orlando, Fla., Shapiro said he has not heard from baseball officials about Byrd and that he has not had any lengthy talks with the pitcher about his HGH use.
Byrd went 15-8 with a 4.59 ERA in 31 starts during the regular season. It was his highest win total since 2002, when he was with the Royals.
During the AL playoffs, Byrd beat New York in Game 4 as the Indians knocked out the Yankees. He also won Game 4 of the ALCS over the Red Sox, who rallied from a 3-1 deficit to eliminate Cleveland before sweeping the Colorado Rockies in the World Series.
But on the morning of Game 7, Byrd's past use of HGH became an issue that caused a pregame distraction and seemed to cloud his future in Cleveland.
Byrd held a news conference before the decisive game at Fenway Park, where he said he was taking HGH for a "pituitary tumor." He wouldn't elaborate on his condition and would not answer questions about whether he was still taking the drug.
He strongly denied hiding his use of HGH, banned by baseball in 2005. The newspaper reported Byrd made his final purchase of HGH a week before the ban began.
Byrd said baseball officials knew he had been taking the drug, which he said he often stored in clubhouse refrigerators.
Although his saves were rarely routine, Borowski got the job done for the Indians in 2007 -- his first season with the club. Cleveland entered spring training without a closer and signed Borowski, Keith Foulke and Roberto Hernandez in the offseason, hoping one would pan out.
After Foulke retired, Borowski was handed the job and ran with it. The 36-year-old journeyman became the first pitcher in history to lead the league in saves with an ERA over 5.00.
"I know it wasn't always pretty the way he got it done," Shapiro said. "But he got it done."
Borowski was confident the Indians would pick up his option. Now that he's had a year back in the AL, the 36-year-old, who spent 2006 with Florida, believes his numbers will improve next season.
"I had a couple outings that blew some of those [statistics] out of the water," he said. "I wish it was like golf and you could get a couple mulligans. I can get my ERA and [opponents] batting average lower. As long as my save total stays up there I'll be happy."
Fultz went 4-3 with a 2.92 ERA in 49 games. His role diminished when Rafael Perez came up from Triple-A Buffalo and became one of the league's dominant lefties. With Perez around, the 34-year-old Fultz could become a trade option this winter.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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