ORLANDO, Fla. -- Marlon Byrd's steroids suspension two years ago didn't stop the Philadelphia Phillies from giving the outfielder a big contract.
"It's pretty prevalent out there," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Wednesday, a day after agreeing to a $16 million, two-year deal. "Who knows who is using and how many people are using? Unfortunately, it's part of the game and, hopefully, it's getting itself eliminated. I think that the system is doing its job. That's what we have to hope and rely on."
Byrd was released by Boston in June 2012, then given a 50-game suspension 11 days later following a positive test for Tamoxifen, which can reduce side effects of steroids use and increase testosterone. At the time, Byrd said he mistakenly used the medication for a recurrence of a condition that earlier required surgery. He says he did not use it for performance enhancement.
He returned to play winter ball in Mexico for the Tomateros de Culiacan (Culiacan Tomato Growers) and signed a minor league contract with the New York Mets on Feb. 1. He wound up on their big league roster for a base salary of $700,000 and earned another $100,000 in performance bonuses based on plate appearances during a rebound season.
The 36-year-old outfielder hit a career-high 24 homers for the Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates, who acquired him on Aug. 27. He batted .364 with one homer and five RBIs in six playoff games after hitting .291 during the season with 88 RBIs, one short of his career best. He is a .280 career hitter with 106 homers and 533 RBIs,
"He talked to our scouts a little bit about how his swing path, his approach and those kind of things, it's changed, and he's worked on it," Amaro said. "I've got to trust my scouts on it."
Byrd was drafted by the Phillies and began his big league career in Philadelphia. His agreement calls for $8 million in each of the next two seasons and includes an $8 million team option for 2016, The option would become guaranteed if he has 1,100 at-bats in the next two seasons, including at least 550 in 2015, or 600 at-bats in 2015.
Philadelphia won five consecutive NL East titles through 2011, dropped to 81-81 the following year and finished 73-89 this season, the Phillies' worst record since 2000. Manager Charlie Manuel was fired in August and replaced by Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg.
Byrd wasn't exactly the type of high-profile star Phillies fans would like to see spark a turnaround.
"I've got to be cognizant of what the fans think, but at the same time we have to try to do what we can to and improve the club, and this move I believe will improve our club," Amaro said.
He took over as GM in November 2008 following Pat Gillick's retirement and was given a three-year contract. Amaro agreed to a four-year extension in March 2011.
"I'm not worried about my job. I'm worried about my team. That's the bottom line," Amaro said. "I believe in the players that we have. I think we've got a great group of players. We had a terrible year last year, but I think we're a much better club than we played last year. It's as simple as that."