WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- There were only two outs flashed on the scoreboard at Chain of Lakes Park in the second inning of Wednesday's game against the Braves, but Indians starter Paul Byrd began walking off the mound and toward the dugout. "I showed my first sign of aging when I could not keep track of the outs," Byrd joked. "I still insist I got four outs that inning. I don't know if that's ever happened to me before." Byrd might have just been out of sorts because of the mere fact that he wasn't working with his personal catcher, Kelly Shoppach. Rather, it was Minor Leaguer Yamid Haad behind the plate.
When the season proper begins, Byrd might have to adjust to working with Victor Martinez, as well. Last season, the Byrd-Shoppach combo was good for 15 victories. It even became the subject of a temporary October controversy, when manager Eric Wedge opted to stick with what was working and bench Ryan Garko so that Martinez could move to first. This year, it's not certain the Indians will stick with a hard-and-fast rule about Byrd being paired with Shoppach. "We're going to match them up, but I'm not saying they're going to be matched up every single time," Wedge said. "There may be situations that dictate otherwise, depending on the rest of our lineup. We just want to leave our options open. You're talking about leaving Victor or Garko or Hafner out of the lineup, and that's significant." That doesn't bother Byrd. "That's fine," he said. "It's a new year. Last year, it was one of those situations where Vic needed a break, and I'm high-maintenance, and it worked out well. I'm not opposed to working with Victor." As for his out-counting mishap in an otherwise solid three innings of work, Byrd laughed it off. "Everybody was all over me," he said. "You feel like an idiot out there." Still waiting: Byrd said he periodically checks in with the league office for updates on his status for '08 and gets the same message each time: Hang tight. Byrd has yet to hear whether he will face a suspension for his admitted use of human growth hormones. The San Francisco Chronicle reported last fall that Byrd bought nearly $25,000 worth of the drugs and syringes between 2002 and 2005, when HGH was first banned by MLB. Byrd told reporters he used the drugs to treat an HGH deficiency and a pituitary disorder. The Indians remain optimistic Byrd will avoid a suspension. No no-no: The Indians came dangerously close to getting no-hit by a trail of Braves on Wednesday. Infielder Danny Sandoval broke up the no-no with two outs and two on in the bottom of the ninth, launching a one-run single off the right-field wall off Colter Bean.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.