Myers on the way back or way out?

From the way it looked on the tee-vee, it appeared as if there was some excitement down there at Citizens Bank Park. Based on reports on the Internets it seemed as if the Mets were going to win in a laugher, but those wily Phillies made ol’ Billy Wagner sweat it out again in the ninth.

Is it me or does Wagner’s fastball look as if it has slowed to Myers-esque velocity?

Speaking of Brett Myers, a few of us got to chat him up after his second minor-league outing at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown after he earned his first win since he beat the Florida Marlins on May 30. Myers pitched 7 1/3 innings, making through three hitters in the eighth inning. He allowed three runs, two of which were earned, as well as seven hits, two walks and a hit batsmen.

The hit batter came on a fastball, which I thought was a good sign because it showed that the big righty was finally throwing his fastball inside on hitters. I guess he got it in a little too much in that case, but still, progress is progress.

I wrote all about it right here.

Even better than burying one in some dude’s ribs was that Myers’ best inning of the game came in the seventh when he responded to his teammates scoring four runs to take a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth by striking out the side. In fact, the radar gun on TV showed that Myers had his speediest heater during that inning.

Obviously, when handed a lead late in the game, Myers wasn’t interested in giving it up.

“That’s what a winner does,” pitching coach Rod Nichols said when asked about Myers’ seventh inning. “He got the lead and went out and struck out the side.”

Still, the big issue isn’t so much as if Myers will get it together in the minors. Why wouldn’t he? Say what you will about the big fella… just don’t think he doesn’t have his pride. Better yet, give him credit for stashing his ego to the side for a moment and realizing that he needed to fix some things.

Then again, perhaps he should have showed up to spring training focused on being a starting pitcher.

Regardless, Randy Miller of Bucks County and yours truly asked Myers about his future as a Phillie and whether or not recent developments affected his immediate or not-so distant tenure with the club. After all, the trading deadline is a little more than three weeks away AND Myers’ contract runs out after next season. If the guy really wants to be a reliever more than a starter as reported, it would seem that his time with the Phillies is tenuous at best.

Nevertheless, when the subject was broached whether or not he “needed a change of scenery,” Myers had a pretty clever answer.

“What, this isn’t a big enough change of scenery?” he joked.

Touché.

Indeed, pitching for the IronPigs in Allentown is quite a change of scenery compared to pitching for the Phillies in Philadelphia. So too is riding to the next game on a chartered bus as opposed to a chartered plane. One flies and the other might have bunk beds.

So next time out Myers will pitch on Saturday for the Phillies… that’s the Reading Phillies. Rather than travel with Lehigh Valley to Syracuse, Myers will pitch in Reading against Akron. After that, Myers is hoping to rejoin his old teammates back in Philadelphia.

“Hoping? I’m planning on it. There’s no hope about it – I’m just getting my work in and working hard to get back there and show them I’m ready.”

Searching for a way back home

Apparently, Brett Myers’ outing in Allentown last night was a big deal. In fact, there were more people at Coca-Cola Park to cover the exiled Phillie than were in the Coca-Cola city to chronicle the Major League Phillies. According to published reports, there were six writers and zero television people in Atlanta with the Phillies, but there were eight writers that regularly cover the Phillies in Allentown along with at least three local TV outlets.

Anyway, I wrote all about it from the cozy press box in the brand-new ballpark before finding my car and proceeding to get lost at least three different times in search of Route 222 back to The Lanc.

I guess I should have checked the directions before I left, but I figured it could be fun just to wing it.

Guess what? It wasn’t much fun, though had I remained on Route 22 it would have taken me to 100, which would have easily linked me up with 222 through Reading and points south.

Yeah, sure… I know all that now.

Nevertheless, last night’s drive home was a lot like Brett Myers’ fastball against the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. Sure, we might have been heading in the right direction in the most general sense, but we sure were taking our time getting there.

In Brett’s regard that amounted to splitters in the dirt, two-seamers well off the plate and some rather pedestrian velocity. The last part is probably the biggest concern to the Phillies because it could signify that something is wrong, be it physical or mechanical. According to all concerned parties, they all believe it to be mechanical.

How quickly those issues get ironed out are another matter all together. The Phillies seem to be banking on the mental rehab trip to Triple-A as well as some insight from Pigs’ pitching coach Rod Nichols to be just what the doctor ordered.

Interestingly, Nichols just might be the one pitching coach Myers hasn’t butted heads with. In the case with Joe Kerrigan, the head butting was almost literal. Then again, Myers isn’t the only pitcher who threatened to take a poke at the ex-pitching coach.

Anyway, while Myers tried to find the plate with his fastball his lot seemed much better off than some guy trying to find his way home but instead ended up on the side of the road halfway toward Tamaqua.

***
If you have missed the U.S. Olympic Track Trials, you ought to be kicking yourself now. In fact, Monday night’s event card was worth the price of a full-event pass by itself. Actually, just the men’s 800-meters final was worth it.

Photo Finish

In what was widely being hailed as the greatest 800-meter race on U.S. soil, viewers got to see just about every element of middle-distance running and sports drama rolled into one.

Here, take a look.

Nick Symmonds of the Oregon Track Club won the race with a blistering kick over the final 300 meters. University of Oregon sophomore Andrew Wheating finished second to earn a spot on the team bound for Beijing next month. The interesting thing about the lean and lanky Wheating is that he has been a runner for just two years. He’s only 20 and he’s already going to the Olympics.

Meanwhile, four-time world champion Khadevis Robinson finished fourth and missed a spot on the Olympic team by centimeters when he was edged on a dive for the finish line by Christian Smith.

Yeah, that’s right… the two runners dived for the line for the last spot on the Olympic team.

Lopez Lomong came in fifth place but missed the last spot for Beijing by .11. Yeah, point-11.

After the race, Smith was sprawled out on the track with blood dripping off his arm from the huge brush burn on his shoulder from the dive. All the while, Symmonds said afterwards that the noise from the crowd at Hayward Field in Eugene was so loud that he couldn’t hear himself breathe.

It was just an awesome, awesome race. Sports Illustrated’s Tim Layden was trying to think of a more thrilling track race and (rightly) came up with the epic duel between Haile Gebreselasie and Paul Tergat in the 10,000-meters in the Sydney Olympics of 2000.

My most memorable (not in order):

  • Geb edging Tergat in 10,000 meters in 2000
  • Zola Budd vs. Mary Decker in 1984 Olympics
  • Michael Johnson setting the 200m World Record in 1996 Olympics
  • Ben Johnson’s dirty 100 meters in Seoul in 1988
  • Prefontaine finishing fourth in the 1972 Olympics 5,000 meters (I only saw the tape)
  • Prefontaine winning an indoor mile in the 1974 LA Times meet
  • Ryan Hall obliterating the field in the 2007 Olympic Trials Marathon
  • Bob Kempainen winning the 1996 Olympic Trials Marathon despite some pretty evident stomach distress

Meanwhile, Bernard Lagat ran away with the 5,000-meter title in the Trials to make his first ever U.S. Olympic team. He’ll bounce back on Sunday night in the 1,500-meters, too.

Locally, Villanova’s Bobby Curtis finished sixth in the 5,000 meters to cap off a brilliant senior season in which he won the NCAA Championship in the event.

Villanova undergrad  Frances Koons runs in the women’s 1,500 preliminaries tonight along with ‘Nova alum Carrie Tollefson. On the men’s side, Penn grad Sam Burley runs in the 1,500 meters after a disappointing finish in the 800.

The women’s 5,000-meter finals on Friday night will feature ‘Nova grad Jen Rhines who went to the 2004 Olympics as a marathoner. Rhines is one of the favorites to make the team in the shorter event, but will face a deep field that features Maureen McCandless from Nazareth Academy.

Interestingly, Philadelphia Will Do’s Dan McQuade boasted that he smoked McCandless in high school cross country meets and caught her on the final straightaway in a local road 5k.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say DMac has no shot these days.

Also tonight, Jeremy Wariner takes on LaShawn Merritt in the 400. Friday night is the men’s 10,000-meter finals where current U.S. half-marathon champ and Millersville University alum, James Carney, should be a contender.

So we’re sitting here in Allentown…

… and Brett Myers is a Pig.

Yeah, that’s the name of the team here in Allentown. The Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Oddly enough, on the drive up here from The Lanc, I found myself driving behind a delivery truck carrying a gaggle of pigs.

So it’s not just a clever nickname.

Anyway, the ballpark here in Allentown is a lot like the one in Clearwater, Fla. and the one in Lancaster. Bright House in Clearwater might be a little bigger though.

I don’t know about the one in Lancaster – Allentown seems nicer.

I ran into Brett Myers upon entering the home clubhouse this afternoon, but, observing Major League protocol I didn’t say anything to him. The rule is that media types shouldn’t speak to the starting pitcher unless the pitcher speaks first. Cory Lidle, Greg Maddux and Kevin Millwood always violated the policy by talking to anyone and everyone that came near them on the days they pitched.

Nevertheless, Myers didn’t seem to mind that I didn’t greet him with a hearty, “Hello!” this afternoon. I’m sure he’ll have more to say after his outing. Check back late night or tomorrow for more on that topic.

Meanwhile, Brett kind of looks odd wearing a blue and white Pigs uniform with the number 44 on the back. Reggie Jackson was No. 44 for the Yankees. Danny Ainge was No. 44 for the Celtics… are there any other 44s I’m missing?

Anyway, off to work. I’m going to watch ol’ No. 44 throw fastballs at the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees in his mental/mechanical rehab assignment. That’s what it is, right?