Byrd returns to site of breakout season

Byrd returns to site of breakout season

KANSAS CITY -- Every once in a while, Paul Byrd gets a note from the people of his old cheering section, The Byrd's Nest.

In 2002, a group of college kids created the group. The Byrd's Nest frequented Kauffman Stadium's upper deck, cheering for Byrd every time he started for the Royals. That was six years ago. An Indian since 2006 after stops at Atlanta and Los Angeles, Byrd takes the mound against his former team on Sunday.

"It's bittersweet for me," he said. "I have a lot of good memories here. A lot of great memories of the way people treated me. When I walk around town, people still know who I am."

That year was sweet for other reasons. Byrd broke out and solidified himself as a Major League starter. He finished the season 17-11 with a 3.90 ERA.

No one is left from the Royals Byrd played for. The coaching staff has changed, and the last player who was on that 2002 team, Mike Sweeney, is now in his first season with the Oakland A's.

"Those guys have moved on, so for me, it's not as much anxiety facing the old guys," Byrd said. "There [has been] a little time between now and '02, so it's easier to get back out here. But I do love the sound of the waterfall and to play in front of these great fans and walk around town."

Byrd lost in his only outing against Kansas City last year. He wants to do good on Sunday in a town that he still holds close to his heart.

"In a strange way," Byrd said, "Kansas City's always felt like home for me."

Pitching matchup
CLE: RHP Paul Byrd (2-4, 4.10 ERA)
Byrd was knocked around for 10 hits in 6 2/3 innings against the White Sox on May 26, but to his credit, he limited the damage to three runs in his fourth no-decision of the season. One ugly trend that has followed the fly-ball-inducing Byrd around this season is his penchant for dishing out the long ball. He has now given up 12 of them on the year, and that's significantly affected him in the won-loss ledger. Byrd is 1-4 with a 5.20 ERA in his career against the Royals, including an 0-1 record and 6.00 ERA in one start last year.

KC: RHP Brian Bannister (4-6, 4.97 ERA)
Trying to halt the Royals' losing streak last Tuesday night, Bannister went against his usual form against the Twins. Where he typically throws to contact and gives up a lot of fly balls, he was extremely aggressive with low pitches. As a result, he got 10 groundouts and three strikeouts in his five innings and didn't give up any homers or extra-base hits. Bannister also made 111 pitches in that short span, but he was pleased with his effort. He got a no-decision as the Royals lost in the 12th inning. Bannister faced the Indians on April 24 and pitched well, but lost, 2-0.

Wigwam Wisps
Saturday night's Indians lineup featured three players who weren't even on the active roster a month ago in Ben Francisco, Shin-Soo Choo and Michael Aubrey. ... Manager Eric Wedge meant it when he said he'd rotate his lineup plenty. Grady Sizemore was the designated hitter Saturday just so he could get a little rest. Wedge said Victor Martinez could also see some action as DH. ... Casey Blake continued his season-long tear against the Royals, going 2-for-4 with a double.

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Up next
• Monday: Indians (Aaron Laffey, 3-3, 1.59) at Rangers (Vicente Padilla, 7-2, 3.67), 8:05 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Indians (Jake Westbrook, 1-2, 3.12) at Rangers (Doug Mathis, 1-1, 5.56), 8:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Indians (Cliff Lee, 8-1, 1.88) at Rangers (Kevin Millwood, 3-3, 4.50), 8:05 p.m. ET

Mark Dent is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.