SAN FRANCISCO - At least Brett Myers has some experience.
The Phillies moved Myers from the rotation to the bullpen on April 18, 5 days before Tom Gordon's right shoulder most recently appeared on the daily injury list.
They said then and they say now that they did it to make the team better: to remove young Myers from the rotation, where he had suffered consecutive poor starts, and to return older Jon Lieber to the rotation, where he had been most of his career before reluctantly accepting a bullpen assignment in March.
The Phillies insisted then and insist now that Gordon's health had nothing to do with moving Myers to the setup role from the No. 1 starter role, where he started the season.
They're just happy they did it when they did.
Gordon, 39, is heading for the 15-day disabled list.
He received a cortisone injection in the shoulder from team physician Dr. Michael Ciccotti yesterday to reduce inflammation in his rotator cuff, said general manager Pat Gillick. Gordon will not try to throw until Monday at the earliest. He then will require at least 4 days of work before trying to pitch again, Gillick said.
Gordon probably will try pitching in Class A Clearwater on a rehab assignment, since he is landing on the 15-day disabled list today.
That means Myers is the closer - a role the club's brain trust has considered for him since he was in the minor leagues. How he pitches in this role could determine whether he ever returns to the rotation.
"The timing's never good, but if there's a good spin on this it's that Brett has some experience out of the bullpen," pitching coach Rich Dubee said.
It has been solid experience, too: eight outings, 8 1/3 innings, one meaningless run, three walks, 13 strikeouts. He has pitched in virtually every situation except a ninth-inning save situation. Myers, a frenetic, bulldog personality, can't wait.
"The pressure's on the hitter in that situation," Myers said.
The hitter might gain an advantage if he faces a closer on consecutive days, Myers said. Otherwise, he figures he has the edge.
Dubee yesterday allowed that he knew Gordon was not "a hundred percent - you could see it in his body language."
Gordon had blown three of eight save chances, had virtually abandoned his curveball and had only spotty command of his fastball. Still, both manager Charlie Manuel and Dubee claimed they were surprised when Gordon told them Wednesday afternoon that his one-inning appearance Tuesday made him feel "like I'd pitched nine innings."
"I was totally surprised that he had this [degree] of stiffness in his shoulder," Manuel said.
Manuel indicated that Gordon's shoulder, which cost him 3 weeks in August last season, had bothered him this season as far back as spring training, when Gordon snuck away from camp March 12 for an unscheduled exam in Philadelphia by Ciccotti. At the time, the club deemed the visit a routine checkup.
Gillick corrected Manuel yesterday. Gordon did not visit Ciccotti about his shoulder in March, Gillick said yesterday; rather, Gordon received a cortisone shot in his elbow. It was the same procedure that cost him time at the beginning of spring training in 2006.
Gordon admitted his elbow was bothering him on March 12.
Myers' former role as setup man now falls to Antonio Alfonseca and Ryan Madson. The Phillies will put Gordon on the DL retroactive to Wednesday and will promote a pitcher from the minors before tonight's game.
Lefty specialist Matt Smith, demoted to Triple A on April 26, usually would need to stay down 10 days but he can return since his return would be due to injury. Other candidates include righthanded veteran Clay Condrey, who made the team out of spring training; righthanded bullpen prospect Joe Bisenius, who has settled since struggling early; and righthander Yoel Hernandez, who has fought injury issues.
Then again, so has Gordon.
His shoulder problems first flared in June last season, the first season of a 3-year, $18 million contract. Gordon was an All-Star last year but he has not pitched like one since July 4. He has blown seven of 25 save opportunities.
The Phillies planned on using Gordon delicately this season. They will be less cautious with Myers, whom they signed to a 3-year, $25.75 million contract in the offseason. Manuel said Myers could pitch as many as two innings as the closer.
"He's been very resilient," Dubee said.
Barry Bonds took Ryan Howard aside during the Giants' batting practice, while the Phillies prepared to stretch, and chatted about Howard's early-season struggles. *