Paul Gregory Byrd (born December 3, 1970) is an American former professional baseball right-handed starting pitcher. He pitched in Major League Baseball from 1995 to 2009. He is known, perhaps ironically, as being the "nicest guy in baseball". In 2002, Byrd developed an old-fashioned, early twentieth-century windup in which he swung his arms back and forth to create deception and momentum. He became recognizable and well known for his unique delivery.
High school, college and minor leagues
Byrd played his high school career at Saint Xavier High School in Louisville, Kentucky. Byrd attended Louisiana State University where he pitched as part of the Tigers baseball team that won the 1991 College World Series. He was originally drafted in the fourth round of the 1991 Major League Baseball draft by the Cleveland Indians. Byrd spent five years in the minor leagues before being traded to the New York Mets and making his major league debut on July 28, 1995.
As a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, Byrd was selected for the 1999 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Byrd's career was revived in 2002, when he won 17 games, despite pitching for a Kansas City Royals team that lost 100 games. Byrd parlayed his 2002 season into a two-year free agent contract with the Atlanta Braves. On July 1, 2003, Byrd underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He was able to successfully come back from the operation and pitch in his first postseason appearance for the Braves during the 2004 National League Division Series.
In December 2004, the Anaheim Angels signed Byrd to a $5 million(USD), one-year contract following the trade of right-handed pitcher Ramón Ortiz to the Cincinnati Reds. Byrd went 12–11 with a 3.74 earned run average in 205 innings with the Angels. He was second in the American League with 21 quality starts.
In 2007, Byrd was 15–8, third best to CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona on the Indians team.
On October 8, 2007, Byrd was the winning pitcher in a 6–4 win against the New York Yankees, giving the Cleveland Indians a 3–1 series win in the 2007 American League Division Series. Byrd pitched again on October 16, this time against the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS. He went five innings, giving up two earned runs and striking out four, gaining the victory in an Indians 7–3 win to take a 3–1 lead in the best of seven series.
On August 12, 2008, Byrd was traded from the Cleveland Indians to the Boston Red Sox for a player to be named later (Mickey Hall). A free agent at the end of the season, he announced on January 14, 2009, that he would sit out the beginning of the 2009 season to spend more time with his family and likely sign a deal with a contending team midseason. Byrd mentioned he would like to sign with a team that is close to his home in Georgia. On August 5, 2009, the Boston Red Sox signed Byrd to a minor-league contract. Byrd made his first major league start of the 2009 season for the Red Sox on August 30, 2009 against the Toronto Blue Jays. Byrd went six innings, giving up three hits, three walks and no runs.
Byrd has written a book called Free Byrd about his life, detailing both his devout Christianity and past struggles with pornography, among other things. Byrd's wife, Kym, is a certified life coach where she helps married athletes with the rigors of their unique marriages. Together, with Paul's help, Kym surveys couples in baseball in hopes of helping those families in need. Through an organization called CRU, Paul and Kym currently travel to various colleges around the United States speaking to students about "Faith in Sports" and "How to Stay Married in a Career Dominated Lifestyle."
On October 21, 2007, Byrd was accused of using HGH by the San Francisco Chronicle. The paper accused him of spending $24,850 on HGH and syringes from 2002 to 2005. Byrd defended himself, claiming that he was being treated for a tumor on his pituitary gland, and took the drugs under medical supervision. Subsequent news reports assert that Byrd began taking HGH before any pituitary gland condition was diagnosed and that one of the medical professionals to have prescribed Byrd HGH was a Florida dentist whose dental license had been suspended for fraud and incompetence. Rob Manfred, then MLB senior vice president for business and labor, asserted that Byrd did not have a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) as he claimed.
On December 13, 2007, Paul Byrd was cited in the Mitchell Report on illegal use of performance-enhancing substances in baseball.