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Byrd enjoys new team, old number

Byrd enjoys new team, old number

BOSTON -- There was a new No. 36 in the Red Sox clubhouse on Wednesday, worn on the frame of a 37-year-old right-hander feeling for the first time the adoration of fans flocking to Fenway Park.

Paul Byrd, acquired from the Cleveland Indians in a trade on Tuesday, arrived at the ballpark and took hold of the number he's rather familiar with from backup catcher Kevin Cash, who will wear No. 30 from now on.

"I've just grown to like it over the years," Byrd said of the number he's worn through his Major League career, covering 13 years and seven teams. "It's involved in some of my passwords on the computer, so if I changed numbers, I'd have to change all that. No good."

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Byrd took the move to Boston in stride on Wednesday, spending time with a slew of reporters and signing autographs for fans outside the dugout pregame.

Byrd's scheduled to start on Friday against Toronto, working with catcher Jason Varitek. The two worked together during offseasons in years past, prompting Byrd to joke that that's the reason Varitek has such good numbers in head-to-head battles. The Sox captain is a career .389 hitter vs. Byrd.

"Hopefully, it gives us quality starts," Varitek said of Byrd's arrival. "You can't expect him to throw shutouts, but just do quality starts and give this team a chance to hit."

The 37-year-old right-hander went 7-10 with a 4.53 ERA with the Indians this season, but he's 4-0 with a 1.24 ERA since the All-Star break.

In putting on a Boston uniform, Byrd will have the opportunity to forge toward the postseason with a viable contender in the defending World Series champions. He said he's handling the pressure of working with a contending team.

"I want to be counted on," he said. "The alternative of that is taking the mound when games don't count and you're not in anything. And that's not fun at all. So I love the pressure."

He's taken the hill in pressure situations before, even doing so against Boston. In last year's American League Championship Series, with the Indians, Byrd pitched five innings of two-run baseball in a Game 4 win over the Red Sox at Jacobs Field. He was also part of a 3-1 series lead that turned into a heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway.

"I wasn't a big Red Sox fan in the offseason," he joked. "[I was] up 3-1 and had a chance to win the World Series. So I had to work through some forgiveness issues there, and it took about five minutes, because I couldn't wait to get over here, put on this jersey and have a chance to make the playoffs."

A jersey that bears No. 36, no less.

"He's got 12 or 13 years in the league, and he wants the number," Cash said. "I wasn't married to it by any means. ... He definitely thanked me and everything, and was very appreciative."

Still, Byrd plans to compensate Cash for giving up the number he cherishes.

"I hear he's a boots guy, so I might have to get him a couple pairs of boots, maybe a watch," he said. "It was really nice. I didn't know if the number was important to him or not, but it's been my number for a while, so it was nice of him to give it up."

Mark Remme is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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