When he was sent to the minor leagues on Aug. 2, Nationals outfielder Marlon Byrd sat silently in Manager Frank Robinson's office, took the news and walked out, never saying a word. But when he returned on Aug. 26, he was a different player.
"He got it," General Manager Jim Bowden said. "It was the best option to the minor leagues we had all year. He went down and figured out that he's not a Punch-and-Judy slap hitter. He can hit with some power."
In 51 games with the Nationals before being sent down, Byrd hit .243 and slugged .306 with eight extra-base hits in 144 at-bats. But he took some tips that Robinson and hitting coach Tom McCraw gave him, then worked with minor league instructor Mitchell Page. Byrd's new motto: Load and explode.
"I have to start everything with my legs," he said.
Since his return from the minors, he was hitting .306 and slugging .532 with nine extra-base hits in 62 at-bats entering Wednesday night's game against the Florida Marlins. The change culminated in a 4-for-6 performance Tuesday in which he hit two doubles and his second homer since returning. He has nine RBI since coming back from the minors.
"He could hit 20 to 25 homers in the big leagues and hit .280 or .290," Bowden said. "That's how he has to think of himself."
The right-handed hitting Byrd played Wednesday night over left-handed hitting Ryan Church despite the fact that the Marlins started right-hander Brian Moehler.
Patterson's Family Picks Up
The family of right-hander John Patterson began putting itself back together this week after Hurricane Rita tore through the Pattersons' home town of Orange, Tex. The family has four houses in the area, owned by Patterson's parents, his grandmother, his brother and Patterson himself. Though Orange was among the areas hardest hit by the storm, no one in the family was injured. Patterson said his house lost some shingles and his brother's had some water damage. The houses of several neighbors were destroyed.
"For all four of them to be okay, it's a miracle, really," Patterson said. "We really dodged a bullet."
Patterson (9-6, 2.90 ERA) makes his last start of the season on Saturday against the Philadelphia Phillies. He plans on heading back to Texas on Monday or Tuesday. His father, Doug, is helping with the cleanup effort in Orange.