IN THEIR HEARTS, and the pits of their stomachs, the Phillies knew what was coming. Sure enough, right around game time, the announcement was made.
Brett Myers will have hip surgery, most likely on Thursday. He's likely to miss the remainder of the season. Dr. Bryan Kelly, who operated on Chase Utley's hip last fall, will do the procedure in New York.
Kelly examined the righthander yesterday and his opinion matched the original diagnosis of team doctor Michael Ciccotti: a frayed labrum and a bone spur.
"Of course I'm a little nervous and scared," said Myers, who was in the clubhouse after last night's 5-4 win over the Nationals. "I've never had surgery before. But the doctor pretty much flat-out told me he could give me a cortisone shot, but that it probably wouldn't do any good. And anytime you hear 'hip replacement' come out of a doctor's mouth, that's not good."
Myers said he was further convinced to have the surgery when it was further mentioned to him that trying to pitch through the discomfort might cause him to alter his mechanics, which put him in danger of hurting his arm.
"And I'm like, 'That makes sense, too,' " he said. "I asked is there any way away from having surgery. And he said no."
Myers was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Lefthander Sergio Escalona, who made a cameo appearance earlier this month, was recalled from Triple A Lehigh Valley for at least the final two games of the series.
The bigger question is who will replace Myers in the rotation.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr., while being typically coy, indicated that somebody currently wearing an IronPigs uniform most likely will start in Myers' spot Tuesday night against the Padres at San Diego's Petco Park.
"We lose somebody and people say, 'How are you going to replace him?' We go out there and play just as hard. In this game, somebody can always step up," said manager Charlie Manuel, noting how righthander Kyle Kendrick was a godsend after arriving in 2007 from Double A Reading with a losing record.
Even before Myers was forced to leave his last start in the sixth inning, the Phillies' rotation earned run average (5.91) was the highest in baseball, and it was no secret the front office was evaluating its pitching options.
The problem is, most teams aren't willing to part with a front-line pitcher until much closer to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, and only after they've concluded that they're hopelessly out of contention.
"I don't think it changes our tempo or aggressiveness," Amaro said. "But, as we know, trades are not the easiest things to do in this environment. It's something we've talked about with a variety of clubs, and have been for the last several weeks, about starting pitching and ways to improve it.
"Part of the issue is we have to find out what teams are going to be sellers. There are a lot of teams out there who haven't decided if they're going to be buyers or sellers. They're still deciding what they want to do. So the pool of players and the type of player we would pursue, may not be available for another several weeks."
Some options were ruled out. Manuel said he wasn't inclined to turn back to righthander Chan Ho Park, who recently was moved to the bullpen after making seven starts.
"When we got him [during the offseason], I looked at him as a bullpen piece. And I looked at him like that because I thought his arm would play up for two or three innings," he said. "I felt like he could hold his focus and his stuff would be good for that long. And right now, the way I'm thinking, that's going to make our bullpen real strong. So right now I don't know if I want to put him back in the rotation or not. He's going to help us more in the role I think he's best suited."
Amaro dismissed the notion of signing an unemployed free agent, such as Pedro Martinez, a three-time Cy Young winner.
So, for the time being, the Phillies will reach into their farm system and hope for the best. The most apparent options:
* Lefthander Antonio Bastardo: After getting off to a 2-2, 1.82 start at Reading, the 23-year-old was promoted to Lehigh Valley and has made two starts at the next level, going 1-0, 2.08. "We've had some real good reports on him," Manuel said.
He might be pitching as well as anybody right now, and, since he pitched Thursday night for the IronPigs, would be right on schedule to pitch Tuesday.
The Phillies might be concerned that he's made only those two starts above Double A and (along with Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer and J.A. Happ) would give them four lefties in the rotation.
* Righthander Andrew Carpenter: The 24-year-old was the choice when the Phillies needed a spot starter earlier this month and was only so-so at Nationals Park. In two starts since returning, he's given up only one earned run in 13 innings, despite putting 18 runners on base.
* Kendrick: Of the options, he has the most experience, having won 21 games in the big leagues. This season, he's 4-3, 4.25. He's won his last two starts, but gave up six earned runs in 12 innings in those games.
"Knowing someone helps. But at the same time, if it's an organizational guy, we've got guys who see them pitch every day," Manuel said. "They give us the information what they see. That's what we've always gone on since I've been here." *