Still, Byrd remains grateful to the Mets.
The club signed him last offseason to a minor-league deal when his career was otherwise potentially over. He proceeded to hit .285 with 21 homers in 425 at-bats, got to experience his first postseason after a trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates with John Buck, then parlayed his 2013 success into a two-year, $16 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies on Nov. 12.
“I needed a team to sign me, believe in me,” Byrd said Tuesday, before starting in the cleanup spot in the series opener between the Mets and Philadelphia Phillies. “They let me go out there and play my game. They gave me a chance to make a team. When I made the team, and they needed me to run out there every single day starting right around June, I did and I put my game together. Hopefully I helped them out a little bit, me and Bucky bringing Vic Black back [in the trade] -- a strong arm, a closer for the future. Hopefully we helped each other out.”
The Phillies surprised many around baseball when they were so aggressive early in signing the 36-year-old Byrd to that deal.
Byrd said the Mets did talk with his agents earlier that month. But the money, and the appeal of finishing his career with the organization that originally drafted him, made signing with Philadelphia a no-brainer. Byrd played with the Phillies from 2002 through May 2005, when he was traded to the Washington Nationals for Endy Chavez.
“This was a good fit for me,” Byrd said. “This is where my roots are. I have friends over here that my family considers family. But they were very aggressive. They wanted me. They showed they wanted me. So it was an easy decision for me to make.”
Byrd invited Lucas Duda to work with him on hitting early in the offseason, before Duda went to Michigan for fitness and nutrition camp. Josh Satin and Justin Turner also participated in the Los Angeles sessions.
Byrd texted Duda on Tuesday morning to say hello.
“He’s one of those guys, I love his work ethic,” Byrd said about Duda. “He wants to get better. He doesn’t want to hit 15 home runs. He wants to hit 30. He knows he has that power. It doesn’t matter what field he’s playing on. He knows he can play the game. He wasn’t happy the way he played left field last year. He worked on it and tried to get better. But now he’s back to the position he knows and he’s very good at.
“Watching his swing in the offseason before he left for Michigan was very exciting for me, because he knew he could get there. He just knew he had to put the right work in, work with the right people. And I think everybody is starting to see the power -- the consistent power come -- that everybody sees in BP with him. So I expect big things from him.”
Said Duda, of Byrd: “He’s a big-leaguer and a great hitter. I just kind of learned from him and tried to apply what I can.”