August 23 Philadelphia Daily News columnist Paul Hagen
“ONE DAY Derrek Lee is playing for the Cubs, an established fan favorite. Next thing, he’s driving to Wrigley Field . . . but going to the visitor’s clubhouse and putting on an Atlanta Braves gray road uniform.
That’s the way it goes in baseball these days. Players sometimes seem to change costumes as quickly as a Broadway actor between scenes.
The kicker in all this is that it’s always fascinating to watch players facing guys who were so recently teammates. Some seem to elevate their game, others might try a little too hard and stumble instead.
That’s why there’s a drama inside a psychology test wrapped in a four-game series against the Astros beginning tonight at Citizens Bank Park. Pitching for Houston tonight, Brett Myers. Starting Wednesday, J.A. Happ.
Both played significant roles in the Phillies’ recent success. Neither left on his own terms. Myers was abruptly informed that the team had no intention of bringing him back the day after the World Series ended last November. Happ, who dangled while his name was bandied about in trade rumors, went to the Astros as part of the package that brought Roy Oswalt here shortly before the deadline.
They are different personalities. Myers is loud and extroverted. Happ is soft-spoken and largely keeps to himself.
“I think there’s always a little more motivation to pitch well against your old team. I’m sure Brett has a lot of motivation to try to beat us. And, of course, [Happ], too. We’ve just got to be ready for them,” said pitching coach Rich Dubee, who spends more time with the staff than any of the other coaches. “I think Brett will probably be pretty amped up where J.A. will probably be as level-headed as he always is. I kind of hope J.A. will be revved up because maybe he’ll get out of his game.”
Could Myers be overly eager to make a point?
“That can happen at times. But they’ve been through some big wars in the past. So I’m sure they’ll both be on top of their game,” Dubee shrugged.
Myers’ outsized personality combined with a couple of well-publicized off-the-field incidents likely played a role in general manager Ruben Amaro’s decision not to re-sign him when he became a free agent last offseason, even though he was the sort of versatile, payroll-friendly pitcher they publicly stated they were looking for.
But he’s still just 29 years old, has a 3.11 earned run average and has lasted at least six innings in 25 straight starts. The Houston Chronicle recently referred to him as “old reliable.” A LexisNexis search did not unearth that description being applied to him at any point during his time here.
A former Phillies No. 1 draft choice, this will be the first time he’s faced his former team in a regular-season game. He pitched against the Phillies in Clearwater this spring – and had to leave the game in the sixth inning when he suffered a mild groin strain – but that really doesn’t count.”
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