05/18/2002 00:32 am ET
Pena gets first MLB win
By Robert Falkoff / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- It was something old for Paul Byrd, something new for Tony
Because Byrd kept rolling along as the Royals' Mr. Reliable Friday
night, Pena was rewarded with his first win as a Major League manager. Byrd
went eight strong innings as Kansas City opened its seven-game road trip
with a 6-2 win over Cleveland. When it was over, each Royals' player coming
off the field stopped to give Pena a hug.
"That's going to show a lot of people the respect we have for each other
on this ballclub already in three days," Pena said. "It was good to get the
first one out of the way."
Later, reliever Jason Grimsley presented the game ball to Pena in the
manager's office. For a guy who had some special moments playing in
Cleveland in the twilight of his career, this night ranked right up there.
"It's really sweet for Tony to get his first win," said first baseman
Mike Sweeney, who hit one of the three Kansas City home runs. "I'm sure it's
a day he'll never forget. It's like getting your first Major League hit."
The Royals fell to Minnesota 8-6 and 14-5 in Pena's opening two games.
But when Byrd is on the mound, good things seem to happen for Kansas City.
Byrd (7-2) is tied for the American League lead in wins with Mark Buehrle
and owns half of Kansas City's victory total.
It was a gutsy effort by Byrd, who threw 125 pitches. He had 40 pitches
after two innings, but then settled down and provided some much-needed rest
for the Royals' bullpen.
"I wanted to win for Tony and I wanted to give our bullpen a breather,"
Byrd said. "Fortunately, it all worked out."
The Royals gave Byrd a quick lead when Joe Randa blasted a two-run homer
in the first inning. Byrd didn't have his usual pinpoint control, but he
made the big pitches when he needed them and finished with a flourish by
fanning Jim Thome and Ellis Burks to end the eighth.
"It scared me when I had 40 pitches in the first two innings," Byrd
said. "What was I thinking? I was trying to make the perfect pitch."
Kansas City had a pleasant combination offensively with four stolen
bases to go with the three home runs. That enabled the Royals to get six
runs, even though they only had six hits.
"This team always scores for me," Byrd said. "I've been pitching well,
but I have to say I've also had good fortune. Omar Vizquel hit a ball down
the line that was about four feet foul. A few feet the other way and it
would have been a two-run homer and tied the game (in the fifth). When
you're going well and winning games, you need some breaks like that to go
Randa reached base on all five trips and Chuck Knoblauch homered and
drove in two runs.
The three homers were nice, but Pena said he won't be counting on that
type of power night in and night out.
"That's not our game," Pena said. "Speed is our game. Sweeney is the
only guy we count on (to hit home runs). The rest of the club. . .we're
going to play fast baseball."
Byrd said it warmed his heart to see Pena get his first win as Royals'
"Tony has been great," Byrd said. "He has come over here with a lot of
enthusiasm. You can already tell he cares about his players as people. He's
going to get the best out of his players, I can tell you that right now."
When they came to Cleveland in April, the Royals were 4-4 and feeling
pretty good about themselves. But a couple of tough losses at Jacobs Field
started a downward spiral that ultimately led to Tony Muser's dismissal as
Now, the Royals, 14-25, are back at Jacobs Field with a new manager and
a new outlook.
"It's good to get out on the road and really get to know everybody on
the ballclub," Pena said. "The first couple of days, you're just getting
familiar with different people. We played good baseball tonight and our
starting pitcher was outstanding.
"Paul really wanted to go back out for the eighth inning, even though he
had thrown a lot of pitches. He wanted it badly, so I said okay. On another
night, maybe we'll only have him throw 85 pitches. But tonight, he was able
to give us 125 pitches."
Something old for Byrd, something new for Pena.
"Paul Byrd is a warrior," Sweeney said. "It's contagious. When Paul's on
the mound, we're like a different team."
"I wanted to win for Tony and I wanted to give our bullpen a breather. Fortunately, it all worked out."
|- PAUL BYRD
Robert Falkoff covers the Royals for MLB.com. This story was not subject to
approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.