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D'backs extend Byrnes for $30 million
By BOB BAUM, AP Sports Writer
Aug 7, 2007 - 5:50:22 PM

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PHOENIX - The Arizona Diamondbacks and popular outfielder Eric Byrnes agreed Tuesday to a $30 million, three-year contract extension through 2010.

Arizona Diamondbacks' Eric Byrnes follows through for a two-run home run during the first inning of their Major League Baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Saturday, Aug 4, 2007, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The deal comes after talks broke down last month and it appeared Byrnes, who is having the best season of his career, would leave as a free agent.

Byrnes, the ever-hustling team leader, is batting .303 with 17 homers, 64 RBIs, 21 doubles and 28 steals. He is seventh in the NL in hits with 135 and fifth in the league in triples with seven on a young team that has a surprising lead in the NL West.

"I don't think we could have signed a better guy to represent this team and this organization than Eric Byrnes," manager Bob Melvin said. "First and foremost, what he does out on the field. He leaves it out there every inning of every game. With the group of young guys coming up, this is the perfect example to have for these guys to learn from."

Byrnes, who is making $4,575,000 this year, gets a $2 million signing bonus payable in two installments next year. He receives salaries of $6 million next season and $11 million each in 2009 and 2010.

The 31-year-old came to Arizona as a free agent in 2006 after what been a mostly unspectacular career that included stints with three teams in 2005 — Oakland, Colorado and Baltimore. He hit .267 with the Diamondbacks last year but had career highs in home runs (26), RBIs (79) and stolen bases (25).

"The past two years have been the most fun that I've ever had playing baseball," Byrnes said at a news conference announcing the signing.

He was a .261 career hitting going in to this season.

"I've always felt that all I needed was an opportunity," Byrnes said.

After the talks broke down, Byrnes said, he believed he would play out the season and become a free agent. That changed nine days earlier, when Diamondbacks chief executive officer Jeff Moorad called Byrnes into his office to offer a new proposal.

"I was shocked," Byrnes said.

General manager Josh Byrnes said the contract "demonstrably shows that we view him as a key, key part of this organization, a leader with this organization."

Byrnes said he is donating $250,000 to the Pat Tillman Foundation. He grew up in the same area as Tillman and organized "Team Tillman" among the Diamondbacks, a mechanism that donates money based on the players' performance.

With Byrnes remaining in left field, the days could be numbered for young Carlos Quentin in the Arizona organization. Rookies Chris Young and Justin Upton are in center and right field, respectively, and Quentin has struggled mightily this season.

Quentin, on the 15-day disabled list, is hitting .208 in 71 games with Arizona.

Byrnes has become a fan favorite because of his offbeat, outgoing California surfer personality and full-tilt play on the field, which results in a constantly dirty uniform and, when he takes of his cap, a disheveled mess of blond hair.

"He is a mite entertaining," Melvin said, "and I think that might go a long way in this day and age. He looks like he's having fun out there at all times, and you don't see that very often."

At the All-Star game in San Francisco, he and his bulldog were in a boat in McCovey Cove, and during the national telecast, he gave a play-by-play of his dog jumping into the water and swimming away. The animal had to be retrieved by a nearby boater.

He said he has two other bulldogs that won't go near the water.

Copyright 2007 - MOP Squad Sports

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