Byrd cites health as HGH defense
Indians right-hander admits to purchasing drugs, but little else
BOSTON -- Paul Byrd has been a feel-good story for the Indians in this 2007 postseason.But on Sunday morning, on the verge of Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, a story of a much different nature emerged on Byrd -- one that threatened to distract an Indians ballclub about to play its biggest game of the season. According to a report in The San Francisco Chronicle, Byrd bought nearly $25,000 worth of human growth hormone and syringes from the Palm Beach Rejuvenation Center between August 2002 and January 2005. Byrd was a pitcher for the Royals, Braves and Angels during that time span. He signed with the Indians in the winter before the 2006 season. Byrd, who is 2-0 with a 3.60 ERA in two October starts, including the Game 4 AL Division Series clincher at Yankee Stadium, met with his teammates in the visitors' clubhouse at Fenway Park before Sunday night's game to address the report. Byrd, available out of the bullpen for Game 7, also spoke before a horde of reporters, stressing that he never took any drug that wasn't prescribed to him. "I have a reputation, I speak at different places, I speak to kids, I speak to churches," Byrd said. "I do not want the fans in Cleveland -- I do not want honest, caring people -- to think that I cheated. Because I didn't. That is very important to me. I do understand there are going to be people around who, no matter what you say, are going to take a negative viewpoint. But I say with complete confidence that I have never taken anything apart from a prescription." Earlier in the day, Byrd told FOXSports.com that three doctors have diagnosed him as suffering from a deficiency of adult-growth hormone. He also claimed to have been diagnosed with a tumor on his pituitary gland at the base of his brain in Spring Training of this year. Byrd told FOXSports that he no longer uses HGH. In his session with reporters, though, he was noncommittal when asked if he has stopped taking the drugs. "That's a private matter right now with me," he said. "I do still have a pituitary issue. I don't know exactly what that means. I'm still learning about that. I will have to get tested for a while now. And that changes a lot of things for me. I don't know what the future holds for me." Byrd said he has been working with the league on this issue, but MLB spokesman Patrick Courtney said that MLB and the Commissioner's Office were unaware that Byrd was using HGH. The league issued a statement that the allegations involving Byrd will be investigated in the coming days. "I don't know of a player who has been granted an exemption for HGH," Courtney said. Byrd confirmed the Chronicle report's claim that he purchased the HGH and syringes on a credit card in his name and had the products delivered to Major League clubhouses. "Everything has been done out in the open," Byrd said. "I have actually had shipments come to clubhouses and have actually, for a period of time, had things stored in a refrigerator in clubhouses. I feel like that makes things very legitimate on my end." Yet Indians general manager Mark Shapiro, who claims to do due diligence on the medical and personal histories of all players he acquires, said he did not know about Byrd's HGH use before Friday, when the Chronicle approached the pitcher for a comment on the forthcoming story.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.