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03/28/08 10:00 AM ET

Myers honored by Opening Day nod

Former closer rewarded for move back to rotation

Phillies fans won't soon forget the last pitch of the 2007 regular season, when Brett Myers struck out Washington's Wily Mo Pena to clinch the team's first division title in 14 years.

The first pitch of 2008 will also be thrown by Myers, on March 31 vs. those same Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. Myers also threw the first pitch of the 2007 season, and this will be his second straight Opening Day assignment.

Unlike his previous three seasons as manager, Charlie Manuel anointed his No. 1 starter on Feb. 26, earlier than Myers last season, and Jon Lieber in 2005 and '06.

Last year, Myers received the nod on March 23, in the final week of Spring Training. The early announcement was made for multiple purposes -- a reward for agreeing to shift to the bullpen, then for coming back to the rotation, and a desire to keep Myers focused on starting.

He flourished in the closer position and expressed a willingness to return to closing, if Brad Lidge's health warranted it.

"We wanted to free Brett's mind up," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "He said he's more than willing to [close], but right now, the issue is that Brett is going to be our Opening Day starter."

Myers made just three starts last year before converting to closer, where he saved 21 of 24 games. He struck out nine in 7 2/3 innings in last year's opener against the Braves, but ended up with a no-decision. He worked 7 2/3 innings total in his next two starts, allowing a combined 13 earned runs in two losses. In 2006, he went 12-7 with a 3.91 ERA.

"I appreciate [the Opening Day assignment]," Myers said. "It's definitely an honor."

After posting an 11-11 record with a 5.52 ERA in 2004, Myers emerged as a top-of-the-rotation starter, compiling ERAs of 3.72 and 3.91 in '05 and '06, respectively.

That progress earned him Manuel's respect and his first Opening Day assignment. Being named in 2008 was a mild surprise, given Cole Hamels' 15-5 season with a 3.39 ERA a year ago.

Regardless of who starts on March 31, big things are planned for both starters.

"It means a lot [to start Opening Day]," said Myers. "It would be nice to be categorized with [John] Smoltz and all those [No. 1] guys, but I think any of our guys can be put in that spot and perform."

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.