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Myers is on a well-trod trail

One who has been there, Dave Righetti, thinks the Phils' former starter will thrive as a closer.

SAN FRANCISCO - Brett Myers certainly isn't the first successful starter to become a closer.

Dennis Eckersley immediately comes to mind. So do John Smoltz and Dave Righetti.

The Phillies moved Myers, the team's opening-day starter, into the bullpen on April 18. But with closer Tom Gordon shelved with inflammation in his right rotator cuff, Myers made his debut as a closer Thursday in a 9-7 win over the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park.

He threw a perfect inning to pick up his first career save.

"It's still just getting people out," Myers said afterward.

Righetti, who is the Giants' pitching coach, knows that better than anybody. He went 14-8 with a 3.44 ERA in 31 starts for the New York Yankees in 1983, but took a call in the winter from new Yankees manager Yogi Berra. The team needed to make him its closer after free-agent Goose Gossage left for the San Diego Padres.

"It wasn't like I was in a position to say no," Righetti said last night. "You just didn't do that then. And there was precedent, too."

Gossage had hurt his thumb in April 1979 during a fight with teammate Cliff Johnson. Ron Guidry volunteered for the bullpen and made a couple of relief appearances in May.

"If that happened now, everybody would be throwing a fit," the 48-year-old Righetti said. "They'd be having fights on TV every five seconds. But Guidry walked down there and did it. He held down the fort. So there was a precedent on our team. That's what you kind of did."

Righetti naturally had his concerns. Like Myers, he didn't want to be shuffled back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen. He also wondered how his arm would respond to the extra work.

"I think I threw close to 100 innings that year as the short man, so I think I handled it pretty well," he said. "I ended up throwing around that my first five years down there. After that, my arm wasn't in such good shape. But nowadays they don't do that. You know what? It was exciting. I took it as a challenge. I took it as a compliment. I tried to do that job as Goose did and as Sparky Lyle had just before that. I embraced it."

But there is pressure - the tense situations every night, the blown saves, the media after a loss.

"It's dealing with the guilt of blowing a game for your teammates," he said. "How do you handle it? You've got to let it go. In carrying the burden, I used to just say, 'I'm putting it all on me.' If we lose the game, I don't want my starter or another reliever to have to take the L. I can do it because I can handle it. That's how I kind of approached it. I put an awful lot of pressure on myself, and I seemed to respond to it, and I didn't shy away from it.

"I think they picked Brett for some of the reasons they picked me. The starter mentality of the power-pitcher starter is pretty similar to the closer in the bullpen. You can pitch with two pitches. Some days you can pitch with one. You're used to holding runners on. You're used to the bunt plays and how to deal with holding teams to one run. You've probably got the secondary pitches, so you can handle lefties and righties pretty good. It's all a compliment to Brett. That's why he's doing it, I'm quite sure."

Righetti said he still hears talk about whether the Yankees did the right thing in moving him into the bullpen. Certainly, there is talk about whether the Phillies made the right move in moving Myers to the bullpen.

"I wouldn't trade it," Righetti said. "How could I? I ended up getting 16 years in. I probably got this job because of it, because it eventually brought me to San Francisco. It's one of the best things in the world. I think he'll be great. He's got great stuff, a great makeup for it. I've always liked him anyway, but he's got a classic delivery. I think that helps him in the bullpen. . . . I think he'll rise up. I think he'll love the heck out of it."