Byrd embraces high expectations in first year with Reds

Byrd embraces high expectations in first year with Reds

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- As the biggest acquisition made by the Reds in the offseason, which was to fill their biggest need in left field, Marlon Byrd is keenly aware that expectations for him are high.

Byrd, 37, also knows why the Reds wanted him.

"It's a combination of things," Byrd said. "I'm not sure what was missing last year. You read a lot of things and hear things, but they brought me over here to win. I'm a veteran, so I need to fill that role of veteran leadership. I think that comes with the territory. That's just how I am. I have to produce. I have to put up the numbers. I have to fit into this lineup and make sure it flows, one through eight. I also have to play good defense out there."

In a career-high154 games last season, Byrd batted .264/.312/.445 with a career-high 25 home runs and 85 RBIs. He was good for 2.6 wins above replacement (WAR) with the Phillies. He led Philadelphia in homers, tallying 55 extra-base hits and 263 total bases.

Reds left fielders combined to bat .229 with 19 homers in 2014. The club did not re-sign free agent Ryan Ludwick and traded Chris Heisey, leaving no question that its everyday left fielder will be Byrd. He was acquired in a Dec. 31 trade with the Phillies for Minor League pitcher Ben Lively.

"I wanted to go back to Philly last year, but things didn't work out as far as winning like we wanted to," said Byrd, who has played 13 seasons with seven clubs. "[Phillies general manager] Ruben Amaro Jr. gave me a great opportunity when he traded me here. We have a chance to win. It's a great ballpark. You can play in front of great fans. I have no complaints about what's going on in my baseball world."

Things didn't go the Reds way last season, either, as they limped to 76 wins and a fourth-place finish. It brought much outside speculation that the club lacked leadership, something that came to the forefront this week with comments by former Reds starting pitcher Mat Latos. First baseman Joey Votto addressed leadership questions on Tuesday, saying the club didn't need a focal point person.

Whether he's the lone leader, or one among many, Byrd placed high value on leadership.

"That's very important," he said. "You talk about the teams that win every single year, the Red Sox, the Yankees, and how they had a culture change down in Tampa [Bay]. You talk about the Orioles now with what they're doing. You talk about what they did in Seattle, Kansas City, what the Dodgers do every year, what the Giants do. The one thing is everything is right in the clubhouse.

"You can't have disruption in the clubhouse and expect a team to win. There is no cohesiveness. It starts in here and then it flows onto the field. Any team that wins knows it's important. Any team that hasn't won that has started to win, like the Pirates, knows it's important. You need that on every single team to win."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.