Brett Myers considered pitching through pain this season, but the message from doctors was clear: If he did not have hip surgery soon, Myers would risk further injury.
So the 28-year-old righthander, who has spent his entire career with the Phillies, decided late yesterday to have surgery to repair a torn labrum and bone spurs in his hip. While an autumn return is not impossible, Myers admitted it was a "longshot." He will be a free agent after this season, so his future in Philadelphia is uncertain.
Myers traveled to New York yesterday to see Bryan T. Kelly, a hip specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery, seeking a second opinion after team doctors told him Thursday that he likely would require surgery. The pitcher said that while no surgery had been scheduled, an operation next Thursday was a strong possibility.
Myers asked Kelly about the possibility of receiving an anti-inflammatory shot and waiting until the off-season to have the procedure. The doctor told Myers that any delay would risk his long-term health.
"This is the best option for me," Myers told The Inquirer. "If you [pitch through the injury], the chances of hurting your arm are greater. Ultimately, I could hurt my arm and need two surgeries."
Kelly performed an operation to repair a torn labrum in second baseman Chase Utley's hip last November, and told Myers that his injury was similar to his teammate's (though, unlike Utley, Myers also has bone spurs). "I have the same thing as Chase, a torn labrum," Myers said.
Utley returned to game action in mid-March, but team physician Michael Ciccotti cautioned against comparing Utley's timetable for Myers. "From an MRI standpoint, it's very similar to Chase's [injury]," Ciccotti said. "But in terms of the recovery period, it may take longer because he's a pitcher and it takes longer for a pitcher than a position player, particularly when it involves his push-off leg.
"It should take about three months before he can get back on a mound - and then he'll have to do all it takes after that before he's back at an elite level, which could take three, four, maybe six weeks after that."
Myers expects to emerge from the surgery stronger than he has been of late. He has allowed a major-league leading 17 home runs in 632/3 innings this year, with a 4-3 record and 4.66 earned run average in 10 starts. His fastball velocity has been lower than in the past, about 88 to 91 m.p.h., down from the low-to-mid-90s of late last season.
"The doctor told me my hip would be unbelievably better when I come back," Myers said. "I will be able to rotate better and have more power."
Now that the Phillies have lost Myers, they face another question about their already shaky rotation. "Last year we were fortunate we didn't have any serious injuries with our pitching staff," said manager Charlie Manuel. "If he's going be out a long period of time we have to find somebody to replace him."
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said yesterday that the team will likely recall a pitcher from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to make Myers' scheduled start on Tuesday. Those options include: Kyle Kendrick (4-3, 4.25 ERA), Carlos Carrasco (0-6, 5.40), Drew Carpenter (2-0, 3.61), Rodrigo Lopez (2-2, 4.84) and Antonio Bastardo (1-0, 2.08).
Beyond that game, the team may be compelled to accelerate their search for a veteran starter via trade. Colorado's Jason Marquis, Boston's Brad Penny and Seattle's Erik Bedard are a few of many pitchers who could become available.
"We have to do what's right both businesswise and talentwise," said Amaro, who placed Myers on the 15-day disabled list last night. "Each possible trade we can make we have to take on a case-by-case basis. It's not an open checkbook situation. We can't be so short-sighted that we make a move just to make a move and not consider the future."
The GM conceded that losing Myers would have a significant impact on the team. "It is a very big blow," he said. "He's been one of our more consistent pitchers and we haven't had a lot of consistency from our rotation. Yeah, it's a really big blow. There's no denying that, but we'll have to deal with it."