Byrd, Buck arrive, start 'meshing with new team'

Byrd, Buck arrive, start 'meshing with new team'

PITTSBURGH -- The new "kids" on the Pirates' block checked in early Wednesday, ready to lend their efforts to the pursuit of a National League Central title.

Outfielder Marlon Byrd, No. 2 on your new scorecard, and catcher John Buck, No. 14, did have to get up to date on a couple matters. Having both driven west from New York, from where they were acquired in a Tuesday trade, they've had a hectic time, so their oversights were understandable.

"Couldn't be more happy ... worst to first," said Buck, coming from sharing the NL East basement with the Mets to, well, the second-place Bucs.

Byrd, in Wednesday night's lineup at cleanup against Brewers lefty Tom Gorzelanny, had to cram on the Pirates' "Z" hand signal for offensive contributions.

"I've seen it," Byrd said, "but I don't even know which way it goes. Someone's gonna have to teach me, because I plan on being on base at some point while I'm here."

No point better than Wednesday as Byrd turned his debut into a memorable night, highlighted by a 14-pitch fourth-inning battle he lost to left-hander Tom Gorzelanny -- who ended it by striking him out -- and his game-breaking three-run homer in the seventh off righty Burke Badenhop. The Pirates won, 7-1, to pull within a half-game of the NL Central-leading Cardinals.

Buck did not make an appearance.

Byrd's arrival triggered a massive shakeup of the Pirates' lineup. Catcher Russell Martin, who had batted cleanup against lefties with Pedro Alvarez lowered into the five-hole, moved all the way to No. 7.

Asked, almost rhetorically, for the rationale behind putting the new guy in the four-hole, manager Clint Hurdle replied, "His numbers against left-handed pitching this year make the statement about it. He'd had an incredibly solid offensive season."

Within Byrd's overall solid numbers with the Mets -- .285 average, 21 homers and 71 RBIs -- are a .345 average and .597 slugging percentage against southpaws.

Beyond the advanced age -- he turns 36 on Friday -- Byrd's resurgent season is remarkable following a bad year that ended on a worse note. After going from the Cubs to Boston in a deal on April 21, 2012, he drove in seven runs in 34 games with the Red Sox, then drew a 50-game suspension for violating MLB's Drug Policy.

"I went through the suspension last year, went home, and one organization believed in me: the Mets," said Byrd, who was not signed by New York until Feb. 1. "They gave me this opportunity, then gave me an opportunity again to come [here to] play in the playoffs. You can't take anything for granted in this game, but things like this happen when you put in the hard work. It's a privilege to be in the big leagues, period."

Buck, 33, began his Pittsburgh tenure as Martin's sole backup, with rookie Tony Sanchez being sent to Indianapolis for three days, until rosters expand on Sept. 1.

"To come in here as a pair softens the initial blow of meshing with a new team," Buck said.

Byrd on Buck: "A professional player. He pays attention to detail, and pitchers love throwing to him. He can surprise you every now and then and let one go, hit one 450 feet. An all-around great player."

Buck on Byrd: "He's a big boy. He covers some ground in the outfield. And he can hit it a long way."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.