Cubs’ Marlon Byrd will try to return by early July
By GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org June 1, 2011 11:36PM
Center fielder Marlon Byrd (left) vowed that he would not try to rush his return after the horrifying beaning. | AP
Updated: September 11, 2011 12:22AM
If it looked as if center fielder Marlon Byrd’s comeback was ahead of schedule Wednesday morning when he started playing catch during batting practice, well, ‘‘No,’’ he said. ‘‘That was me on my own, me being stubborn.’’
That might be the most difficult hurdle left to clear for Byrd as he tries to return by early next month from that horrifying beaning in Boston 12 days ago.
Having escaped serious eye damage from the 93 mph fastball that struck him flush in the cheek, Byrd is focused on returning as early as doctors suggest is feasible, roughly a month from now, and vows not to try to rush.
‘‘I have to trust the doctors and have to follow their orders,’’ said Byrd, who spent the last week and a half seeing eye and orthopedic specialists and hopes to be cleared by next week for vigorous activity. ‘‘I just know I can’t have any jarring, and I have to let the bones heal. . . . They’re non-displaced [fractures] right now, and I want to keep it that way so I don’t have to have surgery.’’
Byrd, who dropped in on teammates before a few games late in this homestand for the first time since the injury, all but admits it’ll be difficult to pace himself once he gets cleared to work out.
After all, this was the guy whose first instinct when he got hit was to go after pitcher Alfredo Aceves.
‘‘I wanted to. I really wanted to,’’ Byrd said. ‘‘When you get hit, it’s weird. You’re just mad for no reason. But the thing is, you saw me on the ground, and I started kicking because I couldn’t see out of my eye. And then, that’s when my anger focused to, ‘Am I ever going to be able to see again?’ because I was seeing all black.
‘‘That’s just the fight in me. I’m a very fiery player.’’
Byrd said he hasn’t heard from Aceves but was told the pitcher tried to contact him.
‘‘But, again, as a player and the way that I am, being old school, there’s no need for him to apologize to me,’’ Byrd said. ‘‘We just need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.’’
Besides, teammates Carlos Zambrano (later in that game) and Kerry Wood (the next night) took a couple of pounds of Red Sox flesh on Byrd’s behalf on the Cubs’ way out of Boston.
‘‘They knew how I was when I came in, that I wasn’t very pleased, wasn’t happy about the whole situation,’’ Byrd said. ‘‘I know that the guys on this team have my back, so I’m not worried about that at all.’’
He also says he’s not worried about stepping back into the batter’s box for the first time after the beaning.
‘‘But at the same time, you’re not sure mentally how you’re going to react,’’ said Byrd, who conceded he might wear a protective cage on his helmet during minor-league rehab games but will stick with the ‘‘old-school’’ helmet when he’s back in the Cubs’ lineup.
‘‘But I’m so excited to try to get back in there and start playing baseball again.’’