PAUL BYRD'S throwback delivery—he steps back and swings his arms behind him to start, then brings them together over his head in a style common among pitchers in the 1950s—is both a personal choice and a technique that has helped him adjust after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2003.
Now Cleveland's No. 4 starter, Byrd, 36, had used a similar motion at LSU before his coaches persuaded him to employ one with much less movement. But in the mid-1990s with the Mets, says Byrd, "I began bending over [early in the delivery] to create a little deception. Then, after surgery, I started swinging my arms. I goofed around, trying things, and I put it all together one day [while with the Braves]. I waited for everyone to leave. I didn't want the coaches to see. They'd think I was nuts."
Byrd tried his new delivery in batting practice the next day. "Nobody said anything derogatory, like I was mocking the game," he says. "After BP the hitters were saying they couldn't find the ball because there was so much movement. Hitters want quietness, not a lot of arms and elbows flying around."
"The first time we saw him do it, we were all like, What is that? It was like some old-time windup," says White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, whose team was shut out over six innings by Byrd on April 14. "I don't know anyone who swings their arm like that." Byrd, an 84-game winner, says, "Pitchers need to do what feels comfortable. If there are 50 ways to pitch, a pitching coach probably knows one—the way he did it."