- The Washington Times - Monday, May 16, 2005

Marlon Byrd wasn’t too pleased to learn of his trade from the Philadelphia Phillies to the Washington Nationals during the middle of Saturday night’s game at Citizens Bank Park.

“It [stunk],” he said. “It was the second inning, I’m sitting on the bench and they called me in. I didn’t know what was going on.”

A member of the Phillies’ organization since the day he was drafted in 1999, Byrd was understandably surprised by the news of his trade to the Nationals for fellow outfielder Endy Chavez.

Once Byrd had a chance to settle into his new digs at RFK Stadium and meet with manager Frank Robinson, he was starting to see the positive side of his relocation to Washington.

Robinson, a fan of Byrd from afar for some time, informed the 27-year-old that he will share time with rookie Ryan Church, giving the Nationals a potentially dangerous left-right platoon in the outfield.

“I know now that I’m going to be platooning at least,” Byrd said before yesterday’s game against the Cubs. “The Phillies just looked at me as a fifth outfielder. They had me there doing nothing, just used me to pinch-run, as a defensive replacement, stuff like that. That’s all they were going to do with me.”

The Nationals don’t know what kind of player they ultimately will have in Byrd, whether he will return to the form he displayed during a fabulous rookie season in 2003 or regress to his sub-par form from 2004.

General manager Jim Bowden, though, felt it was worth a shot, especially when Chavez clearly had worn out his welcome in Washington.

“[Byrd] has great makeup,” Bowden said. “He plays the game hard, the way we like to play. He’s a guy who fits in the clubhouse. I’ve been a big believer in intangibles. I like a team that’s close-knit and plays together. And he fits that role, so we’ll see.”

The Phillies’ willingness to trade Byrd so briefly removed from his breakthrough 2003 season (when he hit .303 with seven homers and 45 RBI) speaks volumes about his sharp decline in 2004 (when he hit .228 with five homers and 33 RBI).

Byrd believes his self-described hitting “funk” is behind him. He spent the winter working with hitting instructor Wally Horsman at the Bucky Dent Baseball School in Delray Beach, Fla., and arrived at Phillies’ spring training with a rebuilt swing. He hit .390 this spring before fracturing a finger, then hit .368 in five games with Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and .308 in five games with the Phillies.

So does Byrd have his 2003 swing back”

“No, I’ve got my ‘01 swing back,’ he said, referring to the year he hit .316 with 28 homers and 89 RBI for Class AA Reading.

To make room for Byrd on the roster, the Nationals placed utility man Henry Mateo on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis. The move came just six days after Mateo was activated off the DL, but it was obvious he had not fully recovered from his surgery to repair a torn labrum in September.

“It doesn’t make sense for him or for the team to continue with him not being 100 percent,” Bowden said. “We need to get him healthy. He’s a very valuable piece healthy.”

The Nationals don’t expect Mateo to be back for another two to four weeks.

“It’s not what I want,” he said. ?But it’s the best thing to do.”

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