It does Myers no good to focus on all that, to get all hyper about the opportunity to prove the Phillies wrong. No good to point out that he's still only 30 and that he uncomplainingly became the closer when he was needed in the role in 2007. No good to mention that he rushed to return from hip surgery, so he'd be available down the stretch in 2009. So he shrugs and insists it's just another game and points out that he has faced the Phillies before, getting the win while allowing two runs in seven innings on Aug. 23. And maybe he can even talk himself into believing that it's no big deal.
Except that the people around him mention a singular trait.
"The one thing about Brett that we all love is that he competes, and has a desire to compete," Astros manager Brad Mills said before an exhibition game at Osceola County Stadium earlier this spring.
"Sometimes he doesn't have his best stuff, but he competes his butt off. He battles," said outfielder Jason Michaels, a former teammate in Philadelphia.
Proof: Myers pitched at least six innings in each of his first 32 starts last season.
And when you have that drive and make your living in a sport that measures every day by victories and defeats, it's hard to imagine he won't look across the field at some point this weekend and think to himself that he won.
Won because the Phillies wondered whether he could be effective without the booming fastball he started his career with. But he pitched well enough to earn a 2-year, $23 million extension with the Astros at midseason, ending up 14-8 with a 3.14 earned run average.
Won because the Phillies apparently tired of his occasional Kung Fu Hillbilly moments and shoot-from-the-lip style. But he's now considered a leader in the Houston clubhouse.
"That desire to compete has been so good for the rest of our pitching staff to see," Mills said. "How he goes about it and how he prepares. His relationship with the whole coaching staff is real good. But everybody on the ballclub gives him respect because of what he did for this team last year."
Astros general manager Ed Wade, well aware of Myers' pluses and minuses because they shared time in Philadelphia, was willing to take a risk. If he hadn't, it's unclear who would have.
"The impact that he had in the clubhouse was all very positive," Wade said. "As much as Brett used to be a guy you had to have a lot of meetings with and deliver messages to, now the reality is that to some extent he's the guy who carries some messages for the manager and the pitching coach and understands a lot about what teammate etiquette is all about. And that's important, particularly with a club that's young and still searching and trying to determine who the true leaders on the club really are. He's on time every day, he does his work, he prepares well. The good teammate and tough love all come out at different points in time.
"It worked out better than anybody's wildest imagination."
Michaels chuckled when asked to explain how Myers has changed since their days together in Philadelphia.
"He's a little more mature now," he said. "He doesn't have the arm, really, that he had there. And he knows it. But he's learned how to pitch, and he's using his pitches. He's pitching instead of throwing. He's a smarter pitcher."
Myers insisted he didn't go into last season with a chip on his shoulder.
"I didn't feel like I had anything to prove. I felt like the Astros gave me an opportunity and I had to re-establish myself. I pretty much had a clean slate last year," he said.
So what did he feel the need to re-establish?
"I don't know. I try not to look at myself as a good pitcher or whatnot. I just try to go out there and get the job done," he said. "Re-establish myself as a starter? Probably. To be a full-time starter, because I bounced back and forth. I think the main thing is that I was healthy with my hip and everything. I think that had a lot to do with being able to pitch and compete. I mean, I always competed whether it hurt or not. But I was able to kind of get my feet back under me."
Did he think he needed a clean slate?
"When I came over here, I got treated like one of the veteran guys," he said. "Over there, I was kind of treated like I was still a young kid, just because I came up with all those guys. And they label guys, the franchise player, or whatever. Who's the team leader is a big deal in the papers all the time. Over here, it's younger kids with some veteran guys. And it just gave me an opportunity to kind of be myself. They let me run with it, and I didn't have to mind my P's and Q's as much as I probably did before. I was kind of let loose and allowed to run around and do whatever I needed to do as long as I was ready to pitch and get my work done. I think that's the main thing."
Major leaguers must prove themselves every year, of course. This time around, the task will be to prove that last year's success hasn't made him complacent. That process begins today, and there's nothing different about that.
Everything else about this start, though, is. No matter how much Myers tries to convince himself otherwise. *