Bryan Byrne ended the month of April with a .260 batting average and no home runs. The only full month in which he hit below .300 last year was September, and even then he managed to reach .280. In fact, that mark of .260 is the lowest batting average Byrne has reached in a full month since his very first pro month, way back in July of 2005.
Byrne has gone on to hit .333 in May, .333 in June, and .343 so far in July. That's not as unusual as the power he has displayed of late. He hit a career-high 13 homers in a very hitter-friendly California League last yea, while five of his seven homers this season have come in his past 18 games.
We caught up with Bryan earlier this week to talk about his turnaround. You can read the transcript below or of it.
FutureBacks: You started the season a little bit slower than normal for you. Was there an adjustment period moving to Double-A?
Bryan Byrne: Yeah, I think there was. The first month was a rough month for me. I had to make some adjustments. Not so much with my swing, but in my approach and having a game plan. At this level, obviously the pitching's better, but you definitely need a game plan and stick with that - not try to do too much. So yeah, a bit of an adjustment period.
FB: What are the biggest changes you've noticed in the pitching?
BB: Pitchers here, they don't give in. Obviously, their stuff's a little better than in A-ball; they throw more pitches for strikes in any count. They keep you off-balance more, so they're definitely a step up.
FB: So where has all this power come from in the past two weeks?
BB: [Laughs] I don't know. People say that home runs come in bunches. I've had a good week or so, and home runs are obviously nice. I'll take as many as I can get. It's been a little surprising the last couple of weeks with the home runs. But I've put some good swings on some pitches.
FB: Tell me specifically about that 15th-inning walkoff on Monday.
BB: Oh wow, that was a long day. I didn't start that day, and I came in the 7th inning for a double-switch, and I still got to play eight innings. So it wasn't really an off day. We battled the whole game, and obviously, the walkoff was real cool. I hadn't done that since my Rookie-ball season. It was kind of comical - off a second baseman who came in to pitch - but they still count. It was fun; Orlando Mercado got the win. It was fun to see him throw for about an inning or so. It was a fun game, and a good way to split the series there against Jacksonville.
FB: Did you have any idea Mercado could pitch like that?
BB: No, no. He's been saying throughout the year that he could pitch, telling [pitching coach Jeff] Pico if he needs him. He did well. He pitched strikes and got guys out, and obviously, he enjoyed it, because he got a win out of it, too, so he was all smiles after the game.
FB: How much does it mean to you to get selected to the All-Star team?
BB: This is the first time I've been an All-Star in my professional career, so I'm excited about it. It's something I wasn't really expecting, because there are a lot of good players here in the league. But I'm looking forward to it, I've got some family coming down, and I think it will be a fun time. [I'll get a chance to] meet some of the guys in the league who I play against every day. It'll be good, especially playing with Rusty Ryal and [Yunesky] Sanchez, guys who are on our team. It's going to be a very good day.
FB: Well you do have a lot of good players on the BayBears, but that hasn't really translated into wins this season. Is that a little bittersweet for you?
BB: You know, it's been an up-and-down year so far. We've got a lot of talent here. I think you'd be able to say we're not pitching when we're hitting or we're not hitting when we're pitching. We haven't put them together at the same time. It's a little frustrating, because everyone had great expectations for us coming into the season. We've still got a few months here in the second half, and we're still somewhat in the hunt for the playoffs. Hopefully we can put together a good, solid month-and-a-half. I think we have the ability, offensively and pitching too, it's just being more consistent and more focused, because the talent is definitely here. We've just gotta put it all together.
FB: If you do make an end-of-the-season run, would you prefer to stay with the team, or get promoted up to Tucson still.
BB: Oh man, tough question. I haven't really thought about that as far as Tucson. I'm focused here in Mobile. If we were to make a run at it, I'd probably want to stay here. Making the playoffs is fun; last year, playing in the playoffs with Visalia was a fun six games or so. Your goal at the beginning of the year is to make the playoffs, and so if you get the chance to make the playoffs, you want to do well and win a Championship. So yeah, if I had the chance to move on, I think I'd want to stay here.
FB: Tell me about your defense this year. Your reputation keeps increasing as far as your abilities there.
BB: Yeah, we talked earlier about it. It's something I take pride in, as far as defense at first base. I'm not a guy who's going to hit 20 home runs, and at first base, they expect a lot of power. So I try to bring my defense to the table, which at first base, is something you can overlook. I keep working with our infield coordinator and keep getting better. I think with this being my fourth season here at first, I'm a little more comfortable and have a better idea of how to do certain things. I'm always eager to help my teammates out in the infield and make them more comfortable to make a throw in the dirt if they have to and knowing that I'll be there to pick 'em. So yeah, it's something that I take pride in.
FB: Do you have any specific goals about the upcoming year or so as far as making the AFL or being promoted?
BB: No... the game is hard enough every day. I think it's hard to look to the future. I just keep playing hard every day. Personally, I'm more into us playing better and making the playoffs. If we do that and make a run, then I'm excited.
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