Tribe brings Byrd into outfield mix on Minor League pact

Tribe brings Byrd into outfield mix on Minor League pact

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Marlon Byrd looked over the rosters of multiple teams this past offseason and saw a few places where he felt he could be a fit as a free-agent signee. Those clubs never reached out to him, creating a waiting game that lasted until Thursday.

Byrd arrived in camp with the Indians -- the only team that came calling with an offer -- and underwent a physical that put the finishing touch on a Minor League contract, which was finalized on Friday. The veteran outfielder knows it is not an ideal situation, especially with under three weeks left until Opening Day, but Cleveland gave him a chance, and he wants to make the most of it.

"You have to be patient," Byrd said after finishing his physical, prior to the Indians' 8-6 loss to the Reds. "Things happen for a reason. You only need one team. You need one team. When you have no teams, that's a hard pill to swallow."

Byrd, who pwould earn a $1 million salary in the Majors, will be thrown into the outfield competition as the latest non-roster invitee. The 38-year-old Byrd offers depth in the corner outfield spots, some right-handed power and a potential platoon partner for right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall.

As things stand, the only perceived locks for the Tribe's outfield are veteran Rajai Davis, who signed with the team over the offseason and can handle left or center field, and Chisenhall in right. Left fielder Michael Brantley, who played in a Minor League game on Thursday, underwent surgery on his right shoulder in November and his status for Opening Day remains unclear.

Cleveland thought it had center field solved with Abraham Almonte's showing in the second half of last season, but he was hit with an 80-game suspension this spring for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

Behind that group, the Indians have Joey Butler, Collin Cowgill, Tyler Naquin and James Ramsey on the roster and Michael Choice, Robbie Grossman, Shane Robinson and Will Venable in camp as non-roster invitees. Naquin has stood out the most among those candidates, hitting .444 with a 1.131 OPS through 11 games in his bid to win a role in center field.

"Some of the non-roster guys, they probably need to have good camps," manager Terry Francona said. "But then it's also got to be a fit at the time. Sometimes we tell them it's not always on your timetable. It might be May. We'll see."

Byrd called the next three weeks "a tryout" with the Indians.

"Wherever they need me," Byrd said. "Fourth outfielder. Fifth outfielder. Whatever it is, I'm here to do. It's an opportunity to make a team and help. A platoon -- anything. I'm OK with anything. I'm not expecting to come make this team and start. That's not the case at all. My job is -- if I do make the team -- is to help out any way I can and be the veteran."

Byrd noted that he was working out with the Pierce College baseball team in Woodland Hills, Calif., outside Los Angeles to stay in shape. The veteran chuckled when asked if three weeks was enough time to get ready for Opening Day.

"I'm going to find out," Byrd said. "I've always had that six-week span to prove something, but three weeks? I don't know. I'm going to test it out."

Byrd hit .247 with 23 home runs, 25 doubles and 73 RBIs in 135 games with the Reds and Giants last season, but he posted a .290 on-base percentage and piled up 145 strikeouts.

Over the past three years, he has averaged 24 homers, 29 doubles and 82 RBIs per season in stints with five clubs. Defensively, Byrd played all three outfield spots last year, but he was best in right field (12.4 UZR/150 in 339 2/3 innings). Facing left-handed pitching, Byrd has hit .286 (.802 OPS) in his career with a .271 (.820 OPS) showing in '15.

Byrd said he is not sure why no other teams offered him a job for this season.

"I have to look at it as there's something in my game that teams didn't want," Byrd said. "Or, they had already filled those holes. I saw myself as maybe a decent fit for certain teams, but those weren't teams that were calling. This is the one team that felt that I was a fit and gave me an opportunity."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.