SAN FRANCISCO - The Phillies had talked about making Brett Myers their closer for months.
Yesterday it finally became reality.
Phillies closer Tom Gordon is expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list today with inflammation in his right rotator cuff. Gordon visited team physician Michael Ciccotti yesterday in Philadelphia, where Ciccotti administered an injection into Gordon's shoulder.
Gordon, who is not expected to throw for at least eight days, will rest through the weekend. Ciccotti is to reexamine him Monday or Tuesday.
"It's the same role," Myers said before last night's game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. "I still have to get guys out."
Phillies general manager Pat Gillick and Myers talked over the winter about the possibility of Myers becoming a closer. Manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee continued the conversation about moving him into the bullpen in spring training. But when the Phils were unable to trade Jon Lieber for bullpen help before the season started, they moved Lieber into the bullpen instead.
That didn't work out. An unhappy Lieber struggled in two appearances and the Phillies eventually moved Myers into the bullpen April 18, but as a setup man. In eight relief appearances, Myers had a 1.08 ERA. In 81/3 innings, he allowed 11 hits and three walks. He struck out 13.
It seemed that this move would come eventually. Gordon was 1-1 with a 4.82 ERA in nine appearances. He blew three saves in eight opportunities.
But he never looked right.
The Phillies brought him along very slowly this spring, and once the season started Gordon was not throwing his breaking ball as much as he had in the past. On April 20 in Cincinnati, after Gordon blew a save in a 2-1 loss, the closer acknowledged that he still wasn't where he wanted to be physically.
"I've been able to get a lot better strength-wise," he said that night. "I'm still battling it a little bit, but not as much as I thought it would be. I'll get there eventually. I'm just hoping that it happens very soon."
So was Gordon ever healthy to begin with?
"He hasn't been 100 percent, that's for sure," Dubee said. "You could see it in his body language. Flash spent a lot of time this winter in Clearwater to try to strengthen the shoulder and his overall arm. That's why we took it slower in the spring, and it just didn't work out."
Gordon made a trip to Philadelphia on March 12 to visit Ciccotti. The team called it a routine exam and said Gordon was healthy, but Manuel said Wednesday that Gordon had gone north in March because of shoulder stiffness.
Gillick said that wasn't true.
Gordon has said in the past that he typically experiences tightness in his elbow and forearm in spring training. He received an injection in his right elbow in spring 2006. Gillick said because the injection went well then, Gordon received another shot in the elbow on March 12.
Gillick said Gordon did not show up on the team's injury report until April 23, when he first complained of shoulder soreness. Gordon pitched April 24, April 27 and Tuesday before he told Manuel that he couldn't pitch Wednesday in Atlanta.
Gillick said Gordon told athletic trainer Scott Sheridan after Tuesday's 6-4 victory over the Braves that his shoulder felt sore.
"Flash is a pretty private person, and sometimes finding out how he really feels is like pulling teeth," Gillick said. "He's not a guy that complains about every little thing. I think being around as long as he has, there are things that he knows he can work through. It's tough sometimes to get exactly how he does feel."
Myers said he feels great in the bullpen, so he is confident he can handle the pressure and the workload.
"Normally [as a starter,] I throw 100 pitches, take a day off, throw back-to-back bullpens, take a day off and pitch," he said. "I was throwing every day as a starter, so it didn't really affect me. It's easier to bounce back after throwing nine pitches or 20 pitches than throwing 100. I think it might be a little less stressful, but getting cranked up every night really isn't a problem for me because I had trouble sitting down every day."
And the pressure of being the official closer? Myers said he doesn't feel it.
"The pressure is on the hitters in this situation," he said. "All I have to do is make my pitches; they're the ones that have to hit the ball. I think if I make my pitches, I should be fine. The pressure is on them. They're the ones that have to get the big hit."