Lidge deal means Myers stays a starter
Right-hander must readjust focus now that closing isn't option
PHILADELPHIA -- While Brad Lidge smiled from the Citizens Bank Park podium Sunday, clutching a new three-year, $37.5 million contract, somewhere in Lehigh Valley, Brett Myers might have had this thought: What about me?It's no secret Myers fell in love with closing last season and performed the role with a swagger that fit the role. He understood how to shake off a blown save and get ready for another chance the next day. After his continued struggles in his return to starting this season, the Phillies optioned him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. On that night, he told The Philadelphia Inquirer he hoped to return to relieving. "I definitely think my future is in the 'pen -- just not right now," he told the paper. "It can't be right now. The bullpen is too good, and my team needs me starting."
Adding that he felt like a "rock star" as a reliever, he said the bullpen was "my calling."
"It fit my personality," Myers said. "It fit my attention span. It was like getting on a motorcycle and going 120 [mph] for one inning. Now I have to go the speed limit."If Myers wants to remain a Phillie, he better readjust to starting. Lidge's signing guarantees he will here for the next three seasons, and possibly four, so that job is taken. "[Myers is] a starter for us," assistant general Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "That's how we've always viewed him. We were in the circumstance [in 2007] where we had to use him as a closer, and he took that challenge. We see Brett as an important piece as a starter for us." If Myers quietly hoped Lidge would depart as a free agent and send Myers back to the ninth inning, this may be the best thing for his mental state. With the possibility of closing for the Phillies out of his head, he can focus solely of regaining the form that made him an effective workhorse in 2004-05. This assumes that this is what the right-hander wants. "Let me put it this way," general manager Pat Gillick said. "There are a lot of things in life that people don't want to do, but you're getting paid, and you've got to show up for work and do the best job you can. I think he'll go out there and give 100 percent, no matter if he's in a closer situation or a starter. I don't see any reason why he can't start." The only one holding Myers back at this point appears to be Myers. If the team gets the sense that he's more set on relieving, the Phillies may have to make a move more drastic than sending him to the Minors. Believed to be one of many suitors for C.C. Sabathia, Erik Bedard and A.J. Burnett, the Phillies could make Myers available to a team willing to take on his $12 million salary for 2009. With an apparent dearth of Major League-ready young talent, Philadelphia likely will have to get creative. Gillick said that Myers isn't necessarily a trading chip. "We want to add to our pitching," Gillick said. "We don't look to subtract from our pitching staff. We're looking to add. That's what we plan on doing, adding pieces to our staff." Gillick elaborated by saying he's not opposed to mortgaging some prospects to help secure a second World Series championship. "You have to mortgage some of it to get to where you want to go," Gillick said. "It depends on what pieces you want to give up. I think realistically we might get a piece. Last year, we got [Kyle] Lohse, who was just kind of on the 'B' list last year. He helped us get to the playoffs last year. We might not come up with a headliner, but we might come up with someone off the 'B' list that can help us." Gillick ended with a big laugh. Asked to comment on the rumors that the Phillies are "lurking" and "stalking" in the Sabathia sweepstakes, Gillick dryly said: "I don't comment on stalking or lurking."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.