Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee can’t say for sure if Brett Myers will take the mound when his next turn in the rotation comes up. Blowing a 5-1 lead may have been the last straw. The most maddening thing about Myers is that the source of his troubles is and always has been from the neck up.
While his velocity is down, that might be because Myers simply has no faith in his fastball. His stuff is so good that he may go out and throw a three-hit shutout, or he could continue to experience first inning meltdowns and add to his league-leading total of home runs allowed.
Myers has been famously temperamental from his rookie days when Curt Schilling told him to keep quiet and know his place, to an ugly incident with his wife in Boston, to this season’s abomination. The problem is obvious. The solution is not. Although the Phillies are still in first place after a horrible performance in interleague play, they simply can’t afford to give games away every fifth day.
The most popular solution seems to be to move Myers to the bullpen and insert Chad Durbin into the starting rotation. I think this would be a big mistake. Why break up one of the best bullpens in baseball? Durbin is the most versatile and maybe the most valuable member of the ‘pen outside of Brad Lidge. Because Kyle Kendrick, Jamie Moyer and Adam Eaton are far from locks to pitch deep into games, the Phillies are probably better served by keeping the bullpen intact and keeping everyone fresh. Also, Myers' biggest problem has been giving up runs in the first inning. If he can't even shut down the opposition for one inning, he won't help the bullpen. While he was effective as a closer last year, he wasn't dominant.
Another option is to skip his turn in the rotation and try to work out the kinks on the side. This could drive someone like Myers crazy. He can’t sit still and needs to pitch. He loved being the closer because he could pitch a few times a week.
Yet another more far-fetched but sensible option is to send Myers to the minors for a few starts so he can regain confidence in his fastball in real game situations without the pressure of costing the Phillies another game. This could either solve the problem or do irreparable damage to an already fragile psyche.
What else can you do? Wait for Kris Benson to be ready? That’s quite a gamble. Trade for a starter? The Phillies don’t have prospects to trade if they expect to receive a difference maker in return, although Shane Victorino or Pat Burrell would be available for the right player. Include Myers in a trade, possibly to a team that needs a closer? Intriguing, but his value is at an all-time low and it will be tough to find a good fit.
I hate to say it, but I think the Phillies should ride it out until the All-Star break, which is only two weeks away. After Adam Eaton’s 2007 debacle was tolerated all season (possibly because of a lack of alternatives), I think you have to give your Opening Day starter a long leash, especially when he has as much natural talent as Myers. If he doesn’t turn it around, all bets are off and he'll just have to deal with the consequences.