Phillies Notebook: Phillies cautious buyers right now

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Jimmy Rollins leaps over Nationals' Jayson Werth during a doubleplay in the second inning of Phillies' loss.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Jimmy Rollins leaps over Nationals' Jayson Werth during a doubleplay in the second inning of Phillies' loss.
Posted: July 12, 2013

RUBEN AMARO Jr. has said repeatedly in the last 2 weeks that he'd like free agent-to-be Chase Utley to be a "Phillie for life." But he wouldn't discuss whether he has talked about a new contract for the franchise icon second baseman, nor would he close the door to dealing Utley before the July 31 trade deadline.

Amaro's stance on the team's most popular player is really no different than how he views his team as a whole as the clock on the trade deadline ticks away. As the general manager sat in the visiting dugout at Citizens Bank Park yesterday afternoon there were exactly 3 weeks remaining until the deadline.

The Phils entered the day winners of six of their last eight games and in position to take their third straight series - against talented opponents, no less - against the Nationals later that night.

"We are playing better baseball and putting ourselves in a position to be buyers," Amaro said.

The Phils came into play yesterday six games back of the Cincinnati Reds in the wild-card race, with only Washington in between the two teams. So are the Phillies leaning toward buying rather than selling?

"Yeah, I think we'll try to do that," Amaro said.

A lot can happen in the next 3 weeks, so Amaro was far from committing to buyer mode. But the addition of a second wild-card slot last season has created a situation where more teams remain in contention even as the season veers toward its final 2 months.

"I would assume things would go down to the wire unless we reel off 10 out of 11 or we lose 10 out of 11," Amaro said. "Then we'll have a clearer picture. Right now, we're just not sure. I would assume like most years it would go down to the wire."

In each of Amaro's first 3 years as general manager, he played buyer on July 29. In three straight seasons he added a marquee player - Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence - on that date.

Last year, he waited until July 31 to play seller for the first time, trading off All-Star outfielders Shane Victorino and Pence.

If Amaro goes into buyer mode, his team's biggest need is obvious. The bullpen is marred by injury and inconsistency, highlighted by setup man Mike Adams, who was transferred to the 60-day disabled list on Tuesday.

The Phils' bullpen entered yesterday with a 4.65 ERA, the worst mark in the National League; only Houston (4.97 ERA) was worse among baseball's 30 teams. In an interview earlier in the day on SportsRadio 94-WIP, manager Charlie Manuel said the team could use not one but two dependable, veteran relievers.

"It's a hard one to get," Amaro said of acquiring premium relief help.

But if the Phillies continue to play like a buyer rather than a seller, Amaro may use his patented deadline aggressiveness to trade for a reliever (or two), even if it means parting with prospects.

"Maybe," Amaro said, continuing to play coy.

Howard update

Amaro might not have to be a buyer or a seller to get a middle-of-the-order bat in the lineup for the season's home stretch.

Ryan Howard underwent what the team termed as "successful" surgery on his left knee yesterday morning. Amaro came out of the post-surgery briefing optimistic.

"It went very well," Amaro said of the procedure performed by team physician Michael Ciccotti at the Rothman Institute.

"It was not a repair; he debrided his menial meniscus and it went really well," Amaro continued. "The arthritic things that we had seen in the MRI were even better when they looked in the scope, so that's a good sign . . . When you do the MRIs, you don't really know what's going on. They can only give you so much of a picture. But after Ciccotti went in there and went in with the scope, it was a little better picture then we thought. I think the player is feeling better about it, we're feeling better about it. As news goes, this is as good as we can get."

The timetable for Howard's return remains 6-to-8 weeks.

"There's a reasonable chance we'll have him back at some point," Amaro said. "We'll see. We still have a lot of question marks about where we're going to go in the next couple of weeks. Right now, the team is making decisions a little harder on me, which is fine."


Roy Halladay threw along the warning track before batting practice in a session that almost resembled the ritual before a pitcher throws his in-between starts bullpen. "I think at some point he'll get off the mound - we're not really quite sure when," Amaro said. "Typically we get guys out to 120, 150 feet to do that. He's at 90. He's been feeling fine, but again it's kind of a day-to-day thing. But so far so good. His demeanor is good. That's a plus" . . . Erik Kratz made his second straight rehab start on Tuesday night at Lehigh Valley. Kratz is just 5 weeks removed from surgery to repair a medial meniscus tear in his left knee. Charlie Manuel said he isn't surprised by Kratz's quick rehab: "If you'd go watch him work out, you'd understand why I say that" . . . Jeremy Horst, who has been on the disabled list with a left elbow sprain since June 17, will throw in back-to-back games for the first time in his rehab today and tomorrow for Lehigh Valley . . . Mike Stutes played catch on Tuesday but Amaro said he's still "a couple of weeks" away from throwing off a mound. Stutes has been on the DL since June 24 with right biceps tendinitis.

DN Members Only : Rich Hofmann writes about why the Phillies should not chase a long shot and become buyers.

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21


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