Veteran Byrd puts power, defense on display

Right fielder, 38, has two hits vs. Rays, including two-run home run

Veteran Byrd puts power, defense on display

ST. PETERSBURG -- Marlon Byrd fastened his earrings near his locker, prepared to leave Tropicana Field after a satisfying series finale. The Indians right fielder, determined to prove he can still produce in the big leagues at 38 years old, revisited his part in a 6-0 win over the Rays with satisfaction.

"It was a good day," Byrd said. "It was one of those days where even the old man gets to show his tools. Beat out an infield hit, hit a homer, play good defense. I've been working hard to try to make sure my swing is there. Defense is something that I think always has to be there. You can't slack on defense."

Byrd didn't do any slacking, going 2-for-3 with two RBIs, a walk and run scored as Cleveland claimed its second consecutive victory and a series win over the Rays.. His offensive highlight came in the sixth inning, when he launched a 406-foot two-run home run to left-center field against right-hander Chris Archer.

The veteran also showed skill with his glove, sliding to catch a line drive by Hank Conger with two outs in the second. With runners at first and second, the play likely prevented the Rays from taking an early lead.

Byrd's sliding grab

"I'm here to do whatever," Byrd said. "We still don't have [Lonnie] Chisenhall back. We don't have [Michael] Brantley back. So my role is whatever. Whatever they need me to do, I'm ready to do it."

The Indians would welcome Byrd as a power bat in their lineup. With his home run off Archer, his first since signing a Minor League deal with Cleveland on March 18, Byrd has now cracked homers for 10 clubs. He has 155 home runs for his career.

Before Thursday, Byrd had been quiet at the plate against the Rays. He went a combined 0-for-6 in the first two games, facing left-handers Matt Moore and Drew Smyly.

Byrd cuts down Conger

Byrd's last multi-hit game happened on Sept. 26, 2015, against the Athletics at Oakland Coliseum, where he went 2-for-4 with three RBIs playing for the Giants. He hit .125 with a .355 OPS through his first five contests this season.

"His ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark -- he's done it for a long time, and he has been real consistent with it," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "So as he gets his legs under him, because he didn't have a lot of Spring Training with us, hopefully some of that production comes with it."

That production arrived Thursday. Byrd, now a grizzled veteran, kept his perspective all along.

"I know I can hit," he said. "I know it's going to come. I'm not a young guy where I panic like I used to."

Andrew Astleford is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.