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Phil Sheridan | Phillies caught in a trap they set

Here's how to build a trap for yourself. First, get caught sending your best relief pitcher home from spring training for a medical examination.

Here's how to build a trap for yourself.

First, get caught sending your best relief pitcher home from spring training for a medical examination.

Second, deny that the reliever has an injury, swearing (with fingers crossed behind your back, so it's not a sin) that he simply was having a routine checkup.

Third, move your best starting pitcher into the bullpen without being able to explain the real reason, since you have vigorously denied the injury to your best reliever.

Fourth, absorb criticism and mockery for the seemingly panicked decision to move the starter, Brett Myers, to the bullpen.

Fifth, absorb criticism and mockery for getting caught in the original lie after the reliever, Tom Gordon, breaks down.

Sixth, wonder why these things always seem to happen to you.

If you remove the public Tomfoolery from the Gordon situation, if you only look at the facts as the Phillies knew them, all of this makes more sense today. The problem, of course, is that all the public has had to go on, until Gordon left the team with shoulder soreness yesterday, was the Tomfoolery.

Clearly, the Phillies' 39-year-old closer was not right during spring training. As it happened, he flew home from Florida for a medical exam on the very same day a couple of reporters, including The Inquirer's Jim Salisbury, were flying north to attend the memorial service for John Vukovich.

If the reporters hadn't seen Gordon in the Tampa airport that day, no one would have known about his trip to Philadelphia.

The Phillies clearly planned to pretend it never happened. When they got caught trying to sneak Gordon to their team doctor, they pretended it was not a big deal.

When Gordon was less than 100 percent effective at the start of the season, the Phillies decided to move Myers to the bullpen. Clearly, the plan was for him to replace Gordon as the closer after adjusting to the very different routine of the relief pitcher.

Manager Charlie Manuel and general manager Pat Gillick, trapped in the alternative reality they'd been spinning, were forced to announce that Myers would pitch in the seventh and eighth innings, or even earlier in games. They proclaimed that Gordon was still their closer.

This made the Myers move seem to be the act of men who were desperate, or perhaps certifiable. Moving your opening-day starter to the closer's role after four starts is risky. Moving him to middle relief is just plain nuts.

There are other reasons for all the dissembling. You may not like them, but they are still part of the code of honor that governs most pro sports, but especially baseball.

The Phillies promised Gordon he would be their closer when they signed him to a three-year contract that now appears a tad over-optimistic. If you break promises like that, word gets around. Future free agents might be less willing to come here if they don't think they can take your word.

In the Neverland of guaranteed baseball contracts, no one seems to factor in harsh realities such as sore shoulders and diminishing returns. The Phillies felt obligated to honor the code until Gordon, following his own code, stopped trying to pitch through his physical problems and admitted he was hurting.

If you're getting the feeling everyone involved here needs a course in interpersonal communication, you're on to something. Just don't tell anyone.

Now that Gordon is getting his shoulder checked out, the Phillies are free to try Myers in the closer's role. This is a positive development, with perhaps one minor catch.

He might not be any good at it.

The best guess is that Myers will succeed. He has the pitches. He seems to have the right mental approach to be a closer. But the truth is, you never know for sure whether a person can do a thing until the person goes out and does it.

The Phillies point to John Smoltz and Dennis Eckersley as examples of starters who made the transition to closer. But Smoltz was 34 when he did it. Eckersley was 32 and a decent, not great, starter.

Myers is 26 and was poised to be the Phillies' ace. That makes the stakes pretty high here. He already has indicated that he doesn't want to go back and forth from the 'pen to the rotation, which means he's likely to be in this role all season. If he's successful, this may be his niche. If not, he faces a return to the rotation minus the confidence he had coming into this season.

All the talking in circles and disguising intentions may have looked tricky, but it was actually the easy part of all this. The hard part, when Myers has to go into close games in the ninth inning, comes now.