02/22/10 3:50 PM EST
Myers brings his candor to Astros
Righty to start anew in Houston after exit from Philly
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
And now he has something to prove.
Cut loose shortly after last season by the Philadelphia Phillies -- the team that drafted him in 1999 and the team he helped win a World Series in 2008 -- Myers is bringing his bravado and brashness to the generally reserved Astros, whose clubhouse suddenly got a whole lot more flavorful.
"Just keep your eyes and ears open," he said.
He begrudgingly met with reporters during one of the first days at spring camp and then spent 30 minutes spilling out his heart on everything from his success on the field with the Phillies, his penchant for attracting controversy and what it means to start over at age 29.
"I felt like I was probably the goat a lot when things would go bad in Philly," he said. "What other guy to blame besides me? I could take it. It didn't bother me. It's part of the game, and I loved playing in Philly, and I'd like to play there again one day. Hopefully I can find a home here and stay here for a while."
Myers admits he's a complicated man. He views himself as a good ol' southern boy from Jacksonville, Fla., who'd much rather spend time with his two children or helping coach a team of four- and five-year-old kids over reading a book or shooting the breeze in a clubhouse with reporters.
The son of a boxing promoter and a former boxer himself, Myers isn't afraid of a little confrontation.
"I was the one who was always outspoken all the time, and I never cared and still kind of don't care what people think about me," he said. "If they don't know me, that can't judge me. It takes a while to get to know me. I don't trust too many people, I guess."
One person Myers does trust is Houston general manager Ed Wade, who drafted Myers while he was GM of the Phillies. That relationship helped the Astros sign Myers to a one-year deal that will guarantee him $5.1 million because of a $2,000,000 buyout. There is a mutual option that would pay him $8 million in 2011.
"I just think this is a chance for him to come in here on a one-year deal, in a different environment and knowing that he's going to get a chance to be in the rotation," Wade said. "I think it just provides him with a lot of motivation and a lot of opportunity to excel."
The fact Myers and Wade wound up reunited with the Astros was surprising, considering the Astros had reached their budget limitations as they headed into January.
During a discussion with president of baseball operations Tal Smith and assistant general managers Ricky Bennett, David Gottfried and Bobby Heck, Wade spoke of a desire to add a veteran pitcher and threw out the names of Myers and Joel Pineiro.
"At the end of the conversation, I put what I thought a price-tag range would be and what impact I thought he would have, and [owner] Drayton [McLane] said, 'Go see what you can do,'" Wade said. "A handful of days later, he was flying in for his physical."
Wade saw Myers up close for several years and knew him as a workhorse capable of making at least 30 starts per season like he did from 2003-06 and '08. He also knew of his off-the-field troubles, including a run-in with a reporter in Philadelphia, his arrest on domestic violence charges that were later dropped and last year's reported playoff dispute with former teammate Cole Hamels that Myers says is hogwash.
When he signed with the Astros, he said he'd like to "stick it" to the Phillies, causing backlash from Phillies fans. No hard feelings, Myers says. That's just the way he's wired.
"When I say things or do something, it always gets worse," Myers said. "It never gets better. They thought I was bashing the city of Philadelphia. I would never do that. That was my home for 10 years. That organization was my family for 10 years. It's like basically telling my brother to kiss my rear end and then telling him you're going to be there for him.
"It's just one of those things where I found myself in a worse situation. Just like the playoff thing with Hamels that never happened. The thing they were saying -- that me and him almost got in a fight ... he took me home that night and picked me up the next day to take me to the field. We really hate each other."
Dripping with sarcasm? Yes. Misunderstood at times? Sure. But Wade says Myers will always let you know where he stands, good or bad.
"He brings a lot of energy, and at times over the course of his career had to be reeled in a little bit at different points," Wade said. "I handled the rod a few times myself trying to reel him in in Philadelphia. All that said, by our scouting reports, he has a lot left in the tank and the ability to move into the middle of our rotation and be very successful."
Myers is coming off a season in which he went 4-3 with a 4.84 ERA in only 18 games, thanks to a hip injury that required surgery. He maintains he's healthy and will likely be the club's No. 3 starter entering the season.
As far as Myers is concerned, the role doesn't matter. He just wants to compete.
"They can give the ball any time, any place and I'll pitch," Myers said. "I think one of the reasons why Ed signed me is because he knows I'll do anything it takes to win, whether it's using me as a pinch-hitter laying down a bunt late in a game after I screwed up the game before or whatever.
"I'll do anything it takes to win. I think losing [stinks]. I've always felt that way. The one thing I've tried to do is to tell the four- and five-year olds that 'It's not OK to lose, guys.' You don't have fun when you lose."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.