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Byrnes on road to recovery from injury

Eric Byrnes tidied up the batter’s box on Friday afternoon, put his back foot on the chalk and looked out for the first pitch he had seen in the Cactus League this year, the first pitch in a real game in more than 9 1/2 months.

The only thing missing was Van Halen blaring over the speakers. Well, that and a hit or two.

Byrnes went 0 for 3 at Tempe Diablo Stadium in his first official game action since he blew out his hamstring June 30.

“I was excited to be out there after nine months,” he said. “To get back out there in a big-league game is fun. I enjoyed it. Obviously, I would have liked to have squared up a couple of balls. But I felt like I took some good passes.”

Byrnes looked like his normal self. He was aggressive at the plate – “That’s the hitter I am,” he said – and in each at-bat he burst out of the box at what looked like full speed, rounding first as if he were thinking extra bases. But each out was a fly ball to left field, one hit more solidly than the others.

“For the first day,” manager Bob Melvin said, “I thought he looked good.”

Byrnes’ return has been slow and steady. He opted to rehab the injury rather than undergo surgery, and the club has been lengthening his leash in the smallest of increments.

When camp began in February, he was running full speed, but just in one direction.

When he began to make turns, he did so progressively, building up to basepaths’ 90-degree angles.

When he got into a game last weekend, it was on the minor-league side. Despite his lobbying efforts the club held him back a few more days, just in case.

But he seemed to suggest he might finally have reached the summit, at least physically, on his long road back.

“You know, I think today was the first day that I didn’t even think about my leg,” he said.

“I don’t know if it was because I was out there in a real game situation, but my leg wasn’t even a thought.”

It’s something Byrnes hasn’t been able to say after a game since the 2007 season. He tweaked his hamstring in the early days of spring training last year while running sprints with teammate Chris Young. It bothered him all year until it gave out for good on June 30.

Playing in center field, Byrnes recorded one putout on a fly by Erick Aybar and had to chase down two doubles that were drilled over his head.

“I had to question myself whether or not I was playing too shallow with those balls going over my head, but both of those balls were hit well,” he said.

“I think it was a good test as far as going back on a ball at full speed. I didn’t feel like there was any hesitation. I turned around and ran but the quarterback overthrew me.”

The team doesn’t appear to be proceeding slowly with Byrnes anymore, who is scheduled to hit cleanup and play left field Saturday in Tucson against Kansas City.

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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