NEW YORK - The radar gun at St. Louis' Busch Stadium is notoriously stingy, so Rich Dubee was unable to say how low Brett Myers' velocity was while allowing five runs on nine hits and striking out only one in 5 1/3 innings Tuesday against the Cardinals.
But the speed of the righthander's fastballs is not No. 1 on the pitching coach's list of concerns. Instead, it is the location of Myers' pitches, which Dubee said has plagued him throughout his first five starts.
"A lot of misses? I'd say there are way too many, yeah," Dubee said.
While Myers has been the most reliable arm on a shaky starting staff, leading the team with 37 innings and a 5.35 ERA, he also leads the team with 15 walks and has allowed more home runs (10) than any other pitcher in the majors. In the Phillies' 10-7 win over the Cardinals, he allowed two home runs in the fourth inning, including one to Yadier Molina on a high fastball in the middle of the plate that Dubee said was intended to go inside.
After the game, manager Charlie Manuel decried Myers' lack of velocity, which data suggest is down from the second half of last season, when Myers rebounded from a stint in the minors to post a 3.06 ERA in his last 13 starts. His fastball averaged 88 to 89 mph against the Cardinals, occasionally touching 90, according to data recorded on MLB.com, which uses different radar guns than the ones that display on the scoreboards in stadiums.
In one of his most impressive starts last season, a win over the Mets in September in which he allowed three hits in eight scoreless innings, Myers' fastball sat in the 90-to-92 range and occasionally reached 93.
There is a big difference between 89 and 92 mph, maybe the difference between a tomahawked home run like Molina's and a popup or swing and miss.
"You can pitch without velocity," Dubee said. "That's one thing he's got to do if he's not going to have 93, 94. He's got to learn to pitch without it."
Dubee said he is working with Myers to create more downward angle on his pitches. Additionally, he thinks Myers' cutter occasionally breaks too early.
In the end, however, it comes down to throwing the ball to its intended target.
"Generally, that's the game of baseball - putting the ball where you want to put it at different speeds," Dubee said. "A ball traveling downhill, you only see the top half of the ball. A ball traveling flat, you see a large ball, a real big ball. We don't like that."
When Charlie Manuel elected to give Chase Utley a day off Tuesday against the Cardinals, he knew the second baseman would fight the decision. Sure enough, before the game, Utley walked into the manager's office and stated his case.
"He came in and talked to me [real] quick," Manuel said with a chuckle yesterday.
Utley, whose right foot has been sore since being hit by a pitch Friday from the Mets' Mike Pelfrey, let his actions do the talking yesterday, taking batting practice and doing some running work before getting cleared by the team's trainers.
"He can swing all right," Manuel said. "It's a matter of moving and running and fielding. He said it felt a lot better today."
Centerfielder Shane Victorino extended his hitting streak to a career-high 15 games with a double in the eighth inning of the Phillies' 1-0 loss to the Mets . . . Before committing three errors last night, the Phillies entered the day having made five, fewest in the majors . . . Cole Hamels (sprained left ankle) reported no ill effects from his bullpen session Tuesday and is expected to make his next start tomorrow. *
For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at http://go.philly.com/highcheese.