07/24/2002 7:36 pm ET
Myers wins battle of No. 1 picks
Rookie allows just two hits to beat Prior, Cubs
By Amy Sternig / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Not bad Brett Myers, not bad at all.
The heralded debut of the Phillies' rookie phenom was everything he expected it to be -- and then some.
He two-hit the Cubs over eight innings and picked up the win in a pitchers' duel with the Cubs' own rookie phenom Mark Prior as the Phillies edged the North Siders, 4-2, Wednesday at Wrigley Field.
Myers struck out five over eight innings and walked just one. The two hits he gave up were a third-inning solo homer to Mark Bellhorn and an eighth-inning double to Todd
Pretty nice way to start off a career in the big leagues.
Was he nervous?
"In the bullpen (before) the first inning I had a little bit of jitters," Myers said. "I just tried to calm down and pitch my game."
Manager Larry Bowa said the calmness was especially valuable after giving up that home run. After toeing the dirt and composing himself behind the mound, Myers went right after the next hitter, and got Bill Mueller to come back to the mound for the final out.
"After a home run, the reports on him were he gets rattled sometimes," Bowa said. "Next hitter he usually walks. I thought he kept his composure."
Bowa said he could not say enough about the performance of the 21-year-old hurler. Myers retired 14 straight batters between the two hits. He struck out five and threw 57 of his 90 pitches for strikes. Bowa said when he heard about the low pitch count, he thought the counter was broken.
But it won't always be this easy.
"This kid, under all the hype and everything, he lived up to his reputation," Bowa said. "I'm sure he's going to be real excited the next two days. (But) he's got an unbelievable team to face Tuesday in Philly, the Giants. He better be focused because this game will humble you real quick."
Myers was the Phillies' first-round choice in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft and was the 12th
Prior, the Cubs' 2001 first-rounder and second overall choice in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft, has been viewed by many as the savior of the Cubs organization. With two young arms facing off, a lot of attention was bestowed on Wrigley Field Wednesday. Prior gave up two runs on four hits. He struck out eight, but walked a career-high five batters.
"Both those gun-slingers lived up to their billing," Bowa said. "Prior was impressive, Brett was really impressive.
"I think it was great for baseball. Two young pitchers that have a great future. Got a lot of people's attention not only in Philly and Chicago, but SportsCenter was talking about it."
"This kid, under all the hype and everything, he lived up to his reputation. I'm sure he's going to be real excited the next two days. ... He better be focused because this game will humble you real quick."
-- Larry Bowa
on Brett Myers
Myers was with the club during Spring Training but was sent down to get some more seasoning. Before his callup Wednesday, he posted a 4-0 record in his last five starts for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and walked just one batter in his last six Triple-A starts -- a 45-inning span.
During his last conversation with Bowa before he left for the minors last spring, Myers thanked him for the opportunity to pitch against the Yankees and said he knew he had the capability to perform at the Major League level.
"I'll see you later during the summer," Bowa recalls Myers saying.
One of the things that got him back to the Phillies was his command of all four of his pitches. Catcher Mike Lieberthal said Myers was great to work with.
"The sinker was probably the most surprising pitch today," Lieberthal said. "Had excellent movement on his sinker. Any time he fell behind in counts, he used the sinker and got a lot of outs on that pitch."
Cubs interim manager Bruce Kimm said his team did not know much about Myers.
"We heard he threw well," Kimm said. "We knew it wouldn't be a walk in the park if he was on, and he was on."
Bellhorn, who tagged Myers for the homer, said it's hard to face a pitcher no one has seen. But now the report's out on Myers for everyone else.
"Anytime you haven't seen a guy before you don't know what he does or how he works," Bellhorn said. "He pitched well today and now everyone knows."< p/>
The only thing Myers admitted to getting rattled about was a botched bunt attempt in the third inning. With runners on first and second, he bunted the third strike foul. Bowa said he got upset in the dugout.
"If I'd have executed that, we'd have been up 1-0 because (Doug) Glanville would have hit a sacrifice fly to center," Myers said. "I wasn't too happy about that."
He came out to the mound after that and struck out the first two batters, but then gave up the Bellhorn homer.
Despite the low pitch count and the mastery Myers seemed to have over the Cubs lineup, Bowa said it was never an option to leave him in for the ninth inning. Instead, the skipper called for closer Jose Mesa.
"I wanted him to leave with a great taste in his mouth, a two-hitter, one run in his first big-league outing. And it worked out perfect," Bowa said.
As Myers watched from the dugout, Mesa got Bellhorn and Mueller to fly out to left field. But then Mesa made a mistake with a high strike that Sammy Sosa took out of the park to make it 4-2.
Two straight singles after the homer gave the Cubs a chance to win it, before Mesa struck out Corey Patterson to end the game.
Myers said he wasn't worried at all.
"I had faith in Mesa," he said. "He's one of the best closers in the game. I had no doubt he was going to close that out."
He struck out in all three plate appearances, but then again, he's not here to hit. But Myers had been hitting .263 in the minors this year. Bowa said Myers might fancy himself a hitter, but he's not sure why.
"He likes to talk about his hitting and I don't know why," Bowa joked. "I've seen that swing and we better just eliminate the hitting part of it."
For now, Myers is content to focus on his pitching and reflect on his accomplishment. He planned to have a nice dinner with his parents, who attended the game and cheered lustily for the rookie, to celebrate the win.
Amy Sternig is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.