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byrd-flies-high-in-mlb-comeback | June | 2004 Articles

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Byrd Flies High in MLB Comeback

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1 year, 8 months, 26 days. That's how long it has been since Paul Byrd has pitched in an official Major League Baseball game. And it's been 1 year, 9 months since he was won. Scratch that. After a long, difficult climb back into the Braves' rotation, Paul Byrd pitched a gem tonight (box score), earning his first win of 2004 by pitching 7 shutout innings against a strong Cleveland team. He threw 91 pitches, 64 for strikes, allowed only 4 hits, and even had an infield single in the second inning. Antonio Alfonseca allowed 2 hits in the 8th, allowing John Smoltz to come in with enough runners on base to make it a save situation. He retired Cleveland first-baseman Travis Hafner after five pitches to end the 8th, then retired the side on four pitches in the 9th to earn his 11th save of the season and a much-needed win, not only for Byrd, but for a Braves team desperate for a turnaround after a dismal week. For those who forget, the Braves signed Byrd to a 2-year, $10 million deal after a strong 2002 season, hoping he could translate 17 wins for the Royals into stardom in Atlanta. But after a rough spring in 2003, including a brief stint on the DL, the Braves announced that he would have surgery on his right elbow April 11 and would be out for 2-4 months. However, a torn medial collateral ligament would require Tommy John surgery July 1, a procedure that was supposed to keep him out for 15-18 months, meaning he probably wouldn't pitch again until 2005. Less than a year later, Paul Byrd is back, throwing 7 shutout innings to snap the Braves' three-game losing streak. Let's hope that tonight's game was not a fluke, and that Byrd can help remind the Braves for the remainder of the season that there's a tradition of winning to uphold.

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