Brett Myers: Growing Up Before Our Eyes

In spring training 2002, Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa wondered out loud how Brett Myers couldn't possibly make the Phillies club. About four months later, Myers was a major leaguer and actually struggled in his 2003 spring training season before becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Phillies rotation.

On July twenty-fourth of last season a new era in Phillies baseball began. That was the day when top pitching prospect Brett Myers made his major league debut in the red pinstripes. Considered to be the organization's best young arm, it was time for him to showcase his knee buckling curveball and nasty fastball against the best hitters in the country. The Phillies minor league system has lacked production in the past decade or so as far as developing and promoting pitching prospects to the major league level. After years of busts like Tyler Green, Pat Combs and Garret Stephenson it appears that trend has been broken with the arrival of Myers and the continual progress being made by Gavin Floyd and Taylor Buchholz.

During Myers' ascent through the minor league ranks much had been made of his extremely competitive nature. The only problem with that was the way Brett chose to display that competitiveness. Being an ex-boxer might have contributed to his mad dog mentality and he showed that off with a much publicized bean ball incident with Yankees prospect Drew Henson. After Columbus pitcher (and ex-Phillie) Bob Scanlan plunked David Doster, Myers retaliated by buzzing the head of a Clippers batter the next inning. The incident escalated the following inning when Scanlan hit Marlon Byrd square in the back with a fastball. Myers took exception to his roommate being hit and he singled out Drew Henson by promising the third baseman that he was going to be the recipient of a fastball to the body. "Henson was standing there looking at me and saying stuff " Myers said. "So I told him, ‘You're next, buddy, you're next.' So right when I threw at him I knew he was coming out." Myers later recanted his statements about Henson saying that he regretted the entire incident. Since that day Myers had carried the "hot-head" label around. He was never afraid to show his displeasure by tossing a water cooler or beating his glove into the bench after a bad outing. Even during his first season with the Phillies Brett still harbored that attitude and it was evident when he would not get a call from the umpire or he made a bad pitch. But how drastic one year can be from the next.

This season, the Phillies acquired Kevin Millwood from the Braves and not only has he proven to be a savior to the pitching staff in Philadelphia, he has proven to be a great role model to Myers. Millwood had the benefit of learning the game from three very good people in Atlanta and the wealth of knowledge about pitching and how to carry himself as a baseball player he brought to Philly is immeasurable. After six years of picking the minds of Leo Mazzone, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, Millwood is now passing that on to Brett Myers and the turnaround in Brett's maturity level is astounding. Gone are the sights of frustrated looks at the umpire and gloves, bats or balls being sent flying. Myers is inseparable from Millwood and it is not only showing in his behavior but in his results on the mound as well. Of course pitching coach Joe Kerrigan bears a lot of the credit in Myers' development but the effect your peers have on you carries much more weight.

Watching Myers pitch has been quite a treat for Phillies fans this season. He is third in the National League with a 2.21 earned run average and has a better than 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio with 21 bases on balls to 46 strikeouts. He struck out a career high eleven Pittsburgh Pirates in his first start of the year. Although he took the loss, he pitched wonderfully going 6 innings and allowing only one unearned run. If not for the Phillies well documented offensive struggles, his record of 3-3 could very well be 8-0. He squared off with his childhood idol Curt Schilling when the Diamondbacks were in town. Unfortunately, Schilling out-performed him and won by shutting the Phils out and holding them to two hits. Myers pitched well enough to win by going eight strong innings, allowing two earned runs on four hits and striking out six Diamondbacks.

Myers' will to win is very strong and despite not receiving much offensive support he continues to be strong every fifth day when it's his turn to toe the rubber. Even though he hasn't yet been in the major leagues one year yet his maturation process is impressive. The big brother and mentor type relationship he shares with Millwood combined with the technical advice from Joe Kerrigan has transformed Brett Myers into one of the best young pitchers in the game of baseball. He has the type of stuff that will one day earn him the notoriety as a staff ace. He has learned to channel his aggressiveness and determination into his performance on the mound. When you intertwine that with the type of command he has on his pitches it is frightening to think how good he is going to be as he gains more experience. Philadelphia Phillies fans should make a point to not miss this kid take the mound. Watching his perfect his craft is exciting and he has grown up before our eyes.

Philly Baseball Insider Top Stories