The lasting memory of Marlon Byrd's demotion to the minor leagues a month ago was not Byrd's silent retreat from the clubhouse at Dolphins Stadium. It was the face of Manager Frank Robinson a few moments later. Never, Robinson said, had he told a player he was being sent down without getting some kind of reaction.
Byrd, he said, simply said nothing. And at the time there was a thought the outfielder might not be back.
But if there were any concerns about Byrd's attitude, they diminished with his performance at Class AAA New Orleans. In 21 games, he hit .407 with five home runs and 11 RBI, and had a .667 slugging percentage. In addition, he was a gregarious presence in the clubhouse, joking with players and acting as if he enjoyed being there.
Sitting in the clubhouse in Omaha a few days ago, Byrd said he felt comfortable being able to play every day, something he wasn't doing in Washington. He also said he felt bad that Robinson perceived him as being angry at the demotion. Rather, he was angry with himself for the prolonged slump that cost him playing time.
"I just didn't have anything to say, so I said nothing," he said of the meeting with Robinson. Yesterday, he was called back up when Ryan Church was placed on the disabled list with a broken little toe on his right foot.
Byrd and Robinson met yesterday before batting practice, and by all accounts the meeting went well, though Robinson still seemed a little miffed about the previous chat.
"If you have nothing to say then say it," Robinson said. "It's no big deal. I can't get inside his head."
Paging 'Rick White'
The Nationals will call up pitcher Matt White from New Orleans to pitch today's game against the Cardinals and their number two starter, Mark Mulder. White has some major league experience, pitching six games for the Red Sox and Mariners in 2003, but is a relative unknown in the Nationals' system. He's so anonymous that Robinson called him "Rick White."
John Halama will start tomorrow in place of the injured Ryan Drese.