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Cubs’ Marlon Byrd comfortable in first game back

Updated: July 5, 2011 3:56PM



The Cubs had their Opening Day lineup together Saturday for the first time since May 10, and they were shut out.

It’s been that kind of season.

But the outcome couldn’t dampen the Cubs’ enthusiasm for the remarkably quick return of center fielder Marlon Byrd from his minor-league rehab assignment.

Even the optimistic projections when he started at Class AAA Iowa on June 27 had him returning to the Cubs on Monday in Washington.

‘‘It was nice to get out there and feel comfortable just being on the field, with no thoughts other than playing baseball,’’ said Byrd, who went 0-for-3 with a walk in his first major-league game since suffering facial fractures May 21, when the Boston Red Sox’ Alfredo Aceves hit him with a pitch.

‘‘It felt normal,’’ he said. ‘‘You just have to simplify it. I’ve thought about it those five weeks or whatever it was, trying to be baseball-ready. Once I stepped into that box in Des Moines, there was no thought process whatsoever. Today, same thing. Just see the ball and hit it.’’

Getting hit by pitches twice during his four-game rehab assignment might have helped the comeback process.

Byrd now wears a helmet with a protective flap across his face.

‘‘It’s comfortable,’’ he said. ‘‘It doesn’t get in the way or anything.’’

Teammates embraced the return of one of their emotional leaders.

‘‘It’s huge. He brings a lot of energy to the yard every day,’’ pitcher Matt Garza said. ‘‘It’s a good little pick-me-up. Too bad we couldn’t win for his reunion.’’

Manager Mike Quade, who batted Byrd sixth, said he didn’t see anything in Byrd’s first day back to suggest any issues hitting after the beaning.

‘‘He’s going to be a big part of our second half,’’ Quade said.

The Cubs haven’t had their entire roster healthy since the first week of the season, and even now two starters from the opening rotation are on the disabled list. But the lineup, at least, is intact again.

‘‘I’d like to see what we can do,’’ Byrd said. ‘‘Hopefully, I can bring just a little extra energy to what they’ve been doing the past week.’’

NOTES: Mike Quade’s ejection in the second inning — he argued an in-the-neighborhood play by Gordon Beckham, who turned a double play — was his third of the season. The Cubs are 2-1 in games in which he gets run.

◆ Veteran right-hander Ramon Ortiz had his start Friday night in Iowa scaled back to four innings (two hits, no runs) in anticipation of his start in Carlos Zambrano’s spot Tuesday in Washington. Ortiz, 38, last pitched in the majors in May 2010.

◆ The announced attendance Saturday of 42,165 was the largest at Wrigley Field in the 14 years of the Cubs-Sox interleague series.



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