One constant among the ever-fluctuating Oakland A's roster year-to-year is a solid bullpen. The A's scouting department has a propensity to maximize the value of young hurlers they believe they can mold into the next Jerry Blevins or Brad Ziegler.
So when the team traded Stephen Parker – a third baseman that appeared to reach his ceiling in Triple-A – to Milwaukee, it was no surprise they received a reliever with a major league ceiling in Darren Byrd.
"I've always been told the A's give guys a chance and if you produce, you don't even know what will happen," Byrd said.
The right-hander's path has been a long one with many stops, including a couple of months in independent ball to start the season in 2010. But when the Brewers in signed him late-June of that year, he showed signs of potential with varying fastball velocities and a hard slider.
His durability has been a plus also. Over the last two seasons with Double-A Huntsville, Byrd has appeared in 91 games and thrown 137 innings.
"I try to keep my training the same every year," Byrd said. "I have a trainer I've been working with over the last three years and he takes good care of me."
Over those two seasons with the Brewers, Byrd compiled a 2.76 ERA, and he only allowed four home runs. The one knock has been his command, as he has walked more than 4.4 batters per nine innings, giving him a strikeout-to-walk ratio of less than two. He hasn't dealt with platoon split issues, however, being almost equally effective against right-handers and lefties.
This year with his new organization, Byrd has been tinkering with a changeup to add to his repertoire, which would give him four pitches, not counting a fastball he likes to change speeds with.
"It's more like a split grip but you don't really dig the ball between your two fingers," Byrd said, while also mentioning it's an offering that will get plenty of sink. "You're just kind of spreading your front two fingers out."
Byrd hasn't started throwing his new pitch in a game, but works on it every time he plays catch. His goal is to start throwing it in games soon.
So far with the River Cats, Byrd has given up runs in two of his nine outings, giving him a 4.15 ERA in 13 innings. He started the season with Midland and was dominant enough in three games to get the promotion. He allowed just two hits in 6.2 frames.
Byrd still has plenty of improving to do before he finds himself in the mix for a 40-man roster spot, but should his changeup prove effective, he could be on his way toward battling for a spot in Oakland's bullpen during next year's spring training.