Marlon Byrd was walking to his car, ready for another ho-hum night at a mostly empty Citi Field in late August, when his cellphone rang.
It was the call he’d been waiting on for a long time, the one summoning him to a pennant race.
Traded from the New York Mets to Pittsburgh, he quickly became a key part of the Pirates. Quite a change from where he was last October _ playing for the Culiacan Tomato Growers in Mexico, trying to resurrect his career.
“Twelve seasons, first postseason appearance. I’m trying to soak it all in and at the same time stay focused. You look at the crowd and you get lost in the energy and atmosphere. Just having a heck of a time,” he said Sunday.
Same for Jake Peavy, Justin Morneau, John Axford and others whose fortunes changed with late trades. All eight teams in the division series boosted themselves with midseason moves, adding the likes of Delmon Young, Jose Iglesias and Brian Wilson.
In fact, both pitchers originally listed to start Game 4 at Dodger Stadium _ Freddy Garcia of Atlanta and Ricky Nolasco of Los Angeles _ switched sides during the year. The Dodgers changed plans Monday and said ace Clayton Kershaw would work on three days’ rest.
Right before the All-Star break, Nolasco went from the last-place Miami Marlins to a team with a chance to advance.
“It was in my mind. I knew the Dodgers had been playing well when I got traded over, and I knew the possibility of us winning this division. I was excited about it, and definitely ready for the opportunity now,” he said Sunday.
Garcia bumped around even more. Cut by San Diego in spring training, he was pitching in the minors for Baltimore when the Braves got him shortly before September.
A two-time All-Star, the 37-year-old Garcia had once been a steady postseason presence, helping the White Sox win the 2005 World Series. No longer a hard thrower, he was sent to Triple-A by Atlanta and had wondered whether it was time to retire.
“At one point you think about it,” he said. “But if you keep pitching, you’re feeling good, you still get people out.”
Not that this year’s journey was any fun.
“Oh, that wasn’t easy, man. Being in Triple-A, being in the big leagues for so long and then this year being in San Diego, Baltimore and now with the Braves, it’s been hard for me,” he said Sunday.
“But more hard for my family. It’s being away from my family, my kids. But now I’m here and I just can’t wait till tomorrow,” he said.