“An unsettling day.” Antonetti, Francona on Byrd
Following Tuesday’s loss to the Rangers, Indians outfielder Marlon Byrd began cleaning out his locker inside the home clubhouse. Unsure of what was going on, bench coach Brad Mills alerted manager Terry Francona of the situation.
Francona called Byrd after they left the stadium, but the veteran outfielder said he would explain what was going on before Wednesday’s game. As it turned out, Byrd was hit with a 162-game suspension from Major League Baseball for testing positive for the growth hormone secretagogue Ipamorelin, a banned substance under the Joint Drug and Prevention Program.
With Byrd off the roster, and possibly done in baseball, the Indians made a few roster moves prior to Wednesday’s game. Outfielder Tyler Naquin is back from Triple-A Columbus, along with lefty reliever Tom Gorzelanny. Right-hander Shawn Armstrong was optioned to Triple-A to clear a spot on the active roster.
Here is the full transcript of the press conferences about the Byrd situation:
Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti
Q: How disappointing was it to get this news?
CA: “It’s disappointing. Any time you lose a player who is contributing to your team, or is expected to contribute to your team in a meaningful way, it’s disappointing. But, our responsibility now is to deal with that reality and give other guys opportunities to contribute and step forward and contribute and pick up the slack with it.”
Q: When did you find out?
CA: “So, last night, Marlon packed up his locker and started putting some of his things together. So, after the game, Tito called Marlon just to check in on what was going on. Marlon said he had some things going on and he wanted to talk to Tito today, so he and Tito met this morning and then Marlon shared the news with Tito at that point.”
Q: Do you believe Byrd’s explanation?
CA: “It’s impossible for us to know, honestly. There’s really only one person who knows what transpired and, in this case, that’s Marlon. I think our job is to deal with the reality and, for us, that’s the impact it has on our team and our organization, which is: Marlon is not going to be playing for us for the balance of this year. So, how do we move forward without him?
Q: So, how do you move forward without him?
CA: “Right now we recalled Tyler Naquin for today. So Tyler, who was up earlier in the year and he was contributing to the team when he was up here and, when Lonnie came back, he went down to the Triple-A and continued to make progress down there. He’ll get another opportunity up here, along with the other guys who are already on the roster.”
Q: Will you look for outfield help outside the organization?
CA: “That’s something that we’ll take some time to determine. The first thing we’ll do is give the guys that are here the opportunity. And then, part of our responsibly, not only in this instance but just generally, is to continue to look for options that would make our team better. This creates another potential opportunity in our outfield to do that, but I
don’t think it changes our approach considerably for how we would normally operate. I think we spend the balance of the year looking for ways to improve as a team and as an organization, and we’ll continue to do that.”
Q: Did his past suspension create any hesitancy in signing him?
CA: “We spent a lot of time working through that. It had been three years at that point since he had the positive test. And he had been tested a lot of times — 2013, 2014 and ’15. We did considerable work and due diligence on him as a teammate and a professional, and ultimately felt that it was worth the risk. To Marlon’s credit, he actually came in and fit in very well with our team, got a long with the players, made a positive impact on the field and in the clubhouse. Obviously, this is an unfortunate [situation]. So, that’s why this was especially unfortunate to learn of the suspension.”
Q: What’s the latest on Michael Brantley?
CA: “Just that he’s continuing to progress with his hitting progression. He took more swings off the tee yesterday and felt it went well. Hopefully, he continues to progress. But I think, as Tito said, we want him to not only come back healthy, but strong and ready to contribute for the balance of the season. So, this won’t have any impact on Michael’s timetable. We’ll look at Michael being ready whenever he’s ready to come back and contribute.”
Q: Do you think the Byrd news will have a negative impact on the clubhouse?
CA: “I hope not. I think we have a really professional group of guys that have learned how to handle adversity over the course of the last few years. Adversity comes in a variety of different forms. This is just one other opportunity to come together as a team and overcome it.”
Q: Was this news especially tough given the number of issues in the outfield already?
CA: “Yeah, I think with what’s transpired with our outfield, even going back to Spring Training and losing Abe, and Lonnie was out for a while, and Michael’s been out for a while. So, that’s been probably the area of our team where we’ve had the most turnover. So, hopefully, we can get a little bit more continuity now moving forward and in a few weeks hopefully get Michael back.”
Q: How important is it to make sure Brantley doesn’t push himself harder now?
CA: “We will talk about that explicitly with Michael. I think we are all of the same mindset in making sure that we go through his rehab in a very thoughtful and judicious way to make sure that, when he comes back again, he’s not only healthy, but strong and ready to contribute for the balance of the season.”
Q: Do you have to pay Byrd’s salary?
CA: “No. He receives Major League service, but not salary. … We paid him up through yesterday.”
Q: Did you or Francona address the team?
CA: “Marlon addressed the team a little while ago. And Tito was in there when Marlon addressed the team. I talked with Marlon before he visited with the team.”
Q: What did Byrd say to you?
CA: “I’ll keep that conversation confidential. I think it’s best probably left between the two of us. But, he talked a little bit about his experience, what led him to this point, talked about some things about the organization and the team. But, I’m not sure it’s productive to get into those details.”
Q: Do you still feel good about giving him the opportunity to come here?
CA: “I do. I think when you look back, he made a positive contribution to the team. Obviously, we didn’t have the information that we’re now sitting with here today. As I said earlier, he was a positive and contributing member to our team both on the field and in the clubhouse.”
Q: Do you know anything about the substance found in the positive test?
CA: “I don’t, no. Other than it’s a metabolite of a performance-enhancing drug. That’s about the extent of what I know.”
Indians manager Terry Francona
Q: How did your conversation go with Byrd?
TF: “I knew something last night was going on, because Millsy had called me and said, ‘Hey, Marlon’s packing up some of his stuff.’ Marlon lives in my building, so I just called and checked on him. He said, ‘I need to talk to you.’ I said, ‘What floor are you on?’ He said, ‘No, I need to talk to you. I’ll talk to you in the morning.’ So, we met this morning and he told me. He just basically told me and walked me through it and everything. So, I immediately called Chris and we got the ball rolling on, one, trying to digest all of that, also knowing that we need to get a player here. So, it’s been kind of an unsettling day.”
Q: What’s the level of disappointment, having also gone through this with Almonte?
TF: “It doesn’t have to be a couple. One’s enough. You’re balancing people make mistakes, and Marlon came in and talked to his teammates and the coaches and stood up in front of everybody and took responsibility and apologized. And also, basically, he told the guys that his career is over and this is not how he wanted it to end. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of criticism of the situation, but it doesn’t take away that we care about him. We care about our team, but we also care about the individuals. So, that hurts. It feels like we got kicked in the stomach a little bit.”
Q: Is there any regret over signing Byrd?
TF: “I mean, I wish today wouldn’t have happened. But, I’m not sure [how you can say that]. Every time something goes wrong, I don’t know that you can [say that]. Marlon’s been a good teammate and he’s a good kid. Provided, he was playing pretty well. I’m not
sure how you can always go back and say [that]. That’s impossible, first of all.”
Q: How did the team take the news?
TF: “After he talked to everybody, I said a couple things to our team and then I left them alone to have some time with him. I thought that was probably the right thing to do.”
Q: You didn’t know until today?
TF: “I guess the way that the system is in place is you’re not allowed to share that stuff. It’s the same thing we had to do with Abe. He wasn’t hiding stuff from us. He was just following instructions.”
Q: What does the outfield situation look like now?
TF: “We called up Naquin today. A little bit all season, whether it’s righties or lefties, at times we’ve had a position where we didn’t have the platoon advantage you might want. In the near future, that could be the case. It actually could help. It could create some spots for Lonnie to face lefties, which could help him. Michael Martinez might get to play a little bit. We’ll see. I don’t have all the answers to that because this is still pretty fresh. We’re just trying to get organized for the day. There’s a lot going on. Gorzelanny getting here. We talked to Armstrong.”
Q: Do you expect Antonetti to look for outfield help outside the organization?
TF: “I don’t know. On top of that, they had meetings today for the Draft. It was a busy day all around. My first thought today was Marlon, not the other things.”
Q: Can you walk through the decision to add Gorzelanny?
TF: “We wanted to protect our bullpen last night. We had intended to [call up] Gorzelanny, but he threw two innings, so there was no reason to get him here last night. He couldn’t pitch. So, we waited a day. That was the reasoning behind it. Gorzelanny had an out [clause]. I don’t feel like we saw him at his best this spring. He’s throwing the ball pretty well right now. It’s a good time to see if he can be the guy who can go ahead, and we can put in that situation.”