Marlon Byrd's Return Not Imminent

When the Phillies demoted center fielder Marlon Byrd on June 20th, they felt some time in the minors would be just what Byrd needed to get himself back on track. Now, with almost a month of time at AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre, the question of Byrd's possible return has to be asked. Has the Phillies young center fielder straightened out his offensive problems?

Toward the end of his major league stint this season, Marlon Byrd looked lost. Even when he had struggled last season, he hadn't looked as bad as he did in his final few games with the Phillies this season. Seemingly with every at bat, Byrd sunk further into a dark abyss and there was no proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Sending him down had to be done for many reasons, including Byrd's future as well as the Phillies present.

Along with Byrd, the Phillies dispatched hitting specialist Charlie Manuel to Scranton to work with Byrd on a one-on-one basis. The early returns from Manuel were positive. Some of the things, we knew already; Byrd was coachable and receptive to advice from Manuel. The other things were all news that Phillies fans had hoped to hear; Manuel's surprise at how the ball jumped off Byrd's bat and how his swing was fixed to something more compact that allowed him to drive the ball. All good news.

Unfortunately, the numbers haven't shown the kind of progress that the Phillies had hoped for. In 98 at bats with the Red Barons, Byrd is hitting 0-6-.245 with a .299 OBP. The numbers are an improvement, but not enough to convince the Phillies that Byrd is ready for a return. Originally, they targeted the all-star break as a potential spot to activate Byrd, but his numbers killed that idea. Now, the clock has been reset with no definite timetable for Byrd's return. When Byrd left Philly, he had gone 2-18-.224 with a .297 OBP in 214 at bats.

While the numbers may be disappointing, the Phillies haven't given up on Byrd. One of the things that they needed him to improve on was simply making contact. At the major league level, Byrd had struck out once every 4.8 at bats this season and once every 5.1 at bats in his career. With Scranton, Byrd has vastly improved on that stat, striking out once every 7.5 at bats. The Phillies believe that as Byrd continues to focus on simply making contact, his other numbers will increase. Ideally, that will happen sooner rather than later, but the Phillies are likely to wait a while longer before bringing Byrd back to Philadelphia.

With the trade deadline coming, Byrd's situation could change. The Phillies would include him in a deal to another team if necessary, especially if they were able to get a center fielder in exchange. Teams have also asked about Jason Michaels and if the Phillies were to include him in a deal, the door for Byrd's return could open thanks to that move as well. Barring any trade moves that would change Byrd's status, it's not out of the question that he could stay at AAA Scranton until the rosters expand on September 1st. That's not the ideal solution for the Phillies, since they hope Byrd can contribute before then, but they believe it may be necessary in the long-term.

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