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Published: Tuesday, 11/6/2007

Indians pick up club options on Byrd, Borowski, Fultz


CLEVELAND Pitcher Paul Byrd, whose admitted use of human growth hormone served as a backdrop to the end of Cleveland's season, had his $7.5 million club option for 2008 picked up by the Indians on Tuesday.

Before Game 7 the ALCS in Boston, Byrd acknowledged taking HGH after the San Francisco Chronicle reported he spent nearly $25,000 on the banned drug and syringes from 2002-05. The 36-year-old Byrd claims he took HGH for a medical condition and did so only under a doctor's supervision.

Byrd is expected to meet with Major League Baseball officials to discuss his use of the performance-enhancing drug.

The Indians also exercised their $4 million option on closer Joe Borowski, who led the AL with 45 saves last season, and $1.5 million option on left-handed reliever Aaron Fultz.

Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said he was unaware of Byrd's past use of HGH until two days before Game 7. The newspaper reported Byrd had purchased HGH while pitching for Kansas City, Atlanta and the Los Angeles Angels.

Last week, Shapiro said he had not heard from baseball officials about Byrd's status and would only factor the right-hander's performance on the field into his decision on whether to pick up the option.

Byrd went 15-8 with a 4.59 ERA in 31 starts during the regular season. It was his highest win total since 2002, when he was with the Royals.

During the AL playoffs, Byrd beat New York in Game 4 as the Indians knocked out the Yankees. He also won Game 4 of the ALCS over the Red Sox, who rallied from a 3-1 deficit to eliminate Cleveland before sweeping Colorado in the World Series.

Although the Indians wouldn't admit it, Byrd's situation was a distraction before Game 7 at Fenway Park.

Byrd held a pregame news conference where he said he was taking HGH for a "pituitary tumor." He wouldn't elaborate on his condition and would not answer questions about whether he was still taking the drug.

Byrd strongly denied hiding his use of HGH, banned by baseball in 2005. The newspaper reported Byrd made his final purchase of HGH a week before the ban began.

Byrd claimed baseball officials knew that he had been taking the drug, which he said he often stored in clubhouse refrigerators.

Although his saves were rarely routine, Borowski got the job done for the Indians in 2007 his first season with the club. Cleveland entered spring training without a closer and signed Borowski, Keith Foulke and Roberto Hernandez in the offseason, hoping one would pan out.

After Foulke retired, Borowski was handed the job and ran with it. The 36-year-old journeyman became just the second Cleveland pitcher to lead the league in saves and did it despite a 5.07 ERA.

Fultz went 4-3 with a 2.92 ERA in 49 games. His role became reduced when Rafael Perez came up from Triple-A Buffalo and became one of the league's dominant lefties. With Perez around, the 34-year-old Fultz could become a trade option for the Indians this winter.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com

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