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04/03/09 10:00 AM ET

Myers prepared for third straight opener

Manuel, Dubee feel righty is poised for best season of career

Brett Myers loves to tell people how much he doesn't like to think.

Thinking screws him up.

"It gets me in trouble," Myers said last week.

But Myers has been thinking plenty since the Phillies won the World Series. He has been thinking about his past, present and future with the organization that made him a first-round Draft pick in 1999. And some of that thinking -- and what has resulted because of it -- has manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee believing this could be the biggest season in Myers' career.

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Myers gets started at 8:05 p.m. ET on Sunday, when the defending World Series champion Phillies open the 2009 season against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park.

"Brett can have any type of year Brett wants to have," Dubee said. "Really, he's that talented. If Brett can be the same guy and prepare the same way and take the same mind-set every five days, there's no reason Brett can't have a big season."

But why could this be his biggest?

He is more motivated than ever.

Myers said he feels badly for the way things went last season. Loving the "rock star" life of a closer in 2007, he never adjusted to returning to the rotation after the Phis acquired closer Brad Lidge in a trade. Things went sour for Myers the first half of the season -- so badly that the Phillies optioned him to the Minor Leagues to straighten things out physically and mentally. He pitched splendidly the second half of the season, but he feels he let his teammates down in the first half.

Myers would like to make up for it.

"The whole thing in the offseason [before 2008] was that I felt I didn't work as hard the offseason before, and the start that I got off to wasn't what I wanted it to be," Myers said. "I felt like I needed to work harder this offseason, and I did."

Myers lost 25 pounds in the offseason and thinks being in better shape will help him on the mound. He also has fully committed himself to being a starter. He has no more desires of that ninth-inning adrenaline rush in his head.

"I think that played a big part of it last year," Dubee said. "I don't think he got that out of his system. Now he had all winter to think about coming in as a starter. The Lidge trade wasn't done during the winter, so that kind of shocked him. He's had the whole winter to be prepared for this."

Myers is in the final season of a three-year, $25.75 million contract, so a big season could mean a big payday. But perhaps just as important as that, Myers likes playing for the Phillies. He would like to stay.

If he struggles, the Phils would be less likely to bring him back, with pitchers like right-hander Carlos Carrasco waiting in the wings.

If Myers pitches well, it at least gives Philadelphia a reason to start a dialogue with him about a new contract.

"If that's motivation, that's good enough for me," Manuel said of Myers' desire to stay. "Anything that motivates him, that's what we want. That's fine. Whatever motivates him. Whatever turns him on. Whatever makes him go. ... That's what we're pulling for."

Myers won a career-high 14 games in 2003, but he had his best seasons in '05 and '06, when he went 13-8 with a 3.72 ERA and 12-7 with a 3.91 ERA, respectively.

Myers could have won more games those seasons, but he never got the run support.

If the talented righty pitches like that in '09, there is no reason he can't win 15 games or more.

Of course, Myers claims he hasn't thought much about that or his future.

"I don't have a mind," Myers said. "It's gone."

Pitching matchup
PHI: RHP Brett Myers (10-13, 4.55 ERA in 2008)
Myers had been scheduled to start the second game of the season, but after left-hander Cole Hamels missed time in March because of inflammation in his left elbow, the Phillies went with Myers, who has started the previous two Opening Days.

ATL: RHP Derek Lowe (14-11, 3.24 ERA in 2008) Lowe was the Braves' big offseason acquisition, bolstering a rotation that needed the stability of a 200-inning pitcher, something he has accomplished five of the previous seven seasons. The former 20-game winner last faced the Phillies in the National League Championship Series, when he was pitching for the Dodgers. Philadelphia beat him in Game 1. He took a no-decision in Game 4, when Matt Stairs hit his memorable home run to right field to win the game.

The Phillies were 14-4 against the Braves last season, including a remarkable 9-0 at Turner Field. ... Myers is 4-8 with a 4.60 ERA and four saves in 26 career appearances against Atlanta. ... Ryan Howard is a career .342 hitter with 24 homers and 71 RBIs against the Braves. That is the most homers he has against any team other than the Nationals (24). Howard does not have more RBIs against any other team. ... Jimmy Rollins has hit .300 with 12 homers and 55 RBIs in his career against Atlanta. That is his best average against a team in which he has at least 225 career at-bats.

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Up next
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Braves (RHP Jair Jurrjens, 13-10, 3.68 ERA in 2008) vs. Phillies (LHP Jamie Moyer, 16-7, 3.71 ERA in 2008), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Braves (RHP Javier Vazquez, 12-16, 4.67 ERA in 2008) vs. Phillies (RHP Joe Blanton, 4-0, 4.20 ERA in 2008), 3:05 p.m. ET

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