Byrd's fitness plan has long-term goal

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- A lot leaner, seemingly quicker and probably stronger, Marlon Byrd could be poised for a hot start to the 2012 season.

For Byrd, though, it’s not how you start it’s how you finish. And his offseason workout regimen, which helped him to shed 20 pounds, was designed for long-term success.

“That was the main thing was to be able to stay strong in day games, third year, trying to figure it out as I go and I think that will be better for me,” Byrd said.

Even though he missed six weeks last season after getting hit in the face with a pitch, Byrd still seemed to fade down the stretch, batting .250 in September and .182 in August. In his first full season with the Cubs in 2010, he batted .348 in April and .333 in June, but just .269 in August and .247 in September.

It’s not like he has always done the slow fade. While playing in the heat of Texas in 2009 he batted .311 in the final month of the season. His career September batting average of .278 is better than his career marks in April (.272) and May (.266).

Which brings you right back to that age-old Wrigley Field argument about the effect of day games.

“I don’t think [the impact of] day games are underestimated, I think it’s something you don’t know until you play there,” Byrd said. “You know it’s day games and you know it’s Saturday noon games, but until you do it you really don’t know what it’s like.”

Heading into play Sunday, Byrd carried a spring batting average of .302 and a .768 OPS so his preparation for the season has gone smoothly. The real test comes when the marathon begins in a week and a half.

“I really won’t know the effects until August and September roll around,” Byrd said. “But that’s the main thing, if I stay strong the second half this year, which I haven’t done the past two years, then I know I’m going in the right direction.”

Manager Dale Sveum likes what he sees so far.

“He feels good and everything has been going really well right now,” Sveum said, “That talk about all the day games and all that stuff is always the million-dollar question that guys wear out because of day games. But I don’t really believe in all that stuff.

“People played in a lot of day games before lights got into baseball. That’s what you make of it and your lifestyle on and off the field is how tired you get on the baseball field.”

A dedication to offseason workouts and fitness sure seems to show a focus that could lead to better second-half results.

It still leaves more questions, though. Will loss of weight also mean a loss of power, even though the two are only partially related? That would be a tough blow since Byrd has hit 21 home runs in two seasons while wearing a Cubs uniform, just one more than he hit in his final season with the Rangers.

“You have to do your strength lifts,” Byrd said. “The strength things I do is to stay strong all year. My dead lifts went up which means my overall strength has gone up. If you do it correctly as far as your upper weight then you’ll be fine.”