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Byrd ready for tall task

Byrd's 'Little Engine' draws the Big Unit

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NEW YORK -- Paul Byrd spent the early part of Monday trying to convince reporters that he was just happy to be on a playoff team and do whatever he could to help the Angels win.

Then he found out from manager Mike Scioscia that he would be starting, and in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium.

He's had three days to prepare for Friday's start against the formidable Yankees lineup, but he hasn't thought twice about the whirlwind role switch.

"Once the season is over, you kind of put your personal goals aside," Byrd said Thursday, on the eve of a critical Game 3 of the best-of-five American League Division Series. "Not that it's not a team concept during the season, but there's just so many games; during the postseason, all you want to do is win the World Series."

Byrd has been everything the Angels hoped for when they signed him to a one-year deal in the offseason. He went 12-11 with a 3.74 ERA in 31 starts, pitching more than 200 innings for the second time in his career.

Byrd won three of his first four September starts before allowing five runs in each of his final two games, going 0-1. His Game 3 start will allow Jarrod Washburn to get an extra day of rest and start Saturday's Game 4. Washburn recently has been dealing with left elbow tendinitis.

The Angels righty will face off against Randy Johnson in Game 3, and the contrast in pitching styles is striking. Byrd joked, likening it to comparing the running speed of Chone Figgins (62 steals) and Bengie Molina (two steals -- career), terming his matchup "The Big Diesel Freight Train" vs. "The Little Engine That Could."

Byrd admitted that he's not going to overpower the Yankees, but rather change speeds, work the corners and try to keep their hitters off-balance. He said one of the keys for him will be to respect everybody in the Yankees' lineup and remain aggressive throughout.

He did exactly that during his lone start against the Yankees during the regular season, allowing three runs in seven innings July 30. He didn't factor in the decision of an 8-7 loss after exiting the game with the Angels leading, 7-3.

Byrd praised the Yankee hitters Thursday, saying the depth of hitting prowess extends from the leadoff hitter to the batter in the nine hole. He cited the success of the Yankees' rookie second baseman, Robinson Cano, in the first two games of the series.

Byrd will also look to continue the Angels' success at Yankee Stadium, where they split six games during the regular season. He said that the key to pitching there is to stick to the game plan and not be intimidated by the crowd or let a bad call distract your focus.

"But it's going to be fun, regardless of where we play," Byrd said. "It's the playoffs and every pitch matters. I love the atmosphere as far as that goes."

Scioscia echoed Byrd's attitude, saying that his players are excited to play at Yankee Stadium because of the fan fervor.

"You just have to bring your game, and then hopefully it's going to be enough to win," Scioscia said.

Friday night, Byrd is certainly going to try.

Ben Couch is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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