Phillies Notebook: Amaro mum as deadline approaches

ASSOCIATED PRESS Jimmy Rollins rounds the bases on his pinch-hit, solo home run in the seventh inning.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Jimmy Rollins rounds the bases on his pinch-hit, solo home run in the seventh inning.
Posted: August 01, 2014

NEW YORK - Just before ducking into the visiting radio booth yesterday morning - a half-hour before the matinee with the Mets and about 29 hours before today's trade deadline - Ruben Amaro Jr. spotted a couple of reporters.

The Phillies general manager playfully raised his eyebrows and rubbed his hands together, as if he was hatching a secret plan.

The details of that (imaginary?) plan is the great mystery, of course, as Amaro declined comment twice before his team wrapped up a three-game series at Citi Field. Amaro doesn't ever comment on trades, so staying mum in the hours leading up to the trade deadline wasn't shocking.

But he wouldn't even offer a scouting report of free-agent Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo, who reportedly had flown to Florida for a workout on Tuesday.

"Who?" Amaro said with a sly grin.

"The outfielder photographed sitting in the dugout at Bright House Field in Clearwater yesterday," a reporter said.

"What was he doing?" Amaro said.

"Sitting in the dugout with a baseball uniform on," the reporter said.

In the current, dysfunctional world that is the Phillies, it would be somewhat fitting if Amaro and Co. held onto their veteran players after 4 p.m. today and signed Castillo. Buyers!

But the reality is Amaro has been working diligently in the last week, attempting to make something worthwhile happen for his last-place team. Marlon Byrd, A.J. Burnett and Antonio Bastardo remain the most likely candidates to be traded this week - Cliff Lee is a candidate for next month, when players can be traded after clearing waivers - and Amaro was mostly a phantom during his 3 days in New York this week.

It's highly unlikely Amaro will stand pat as he did a year ago.

Several contending teams could use a righthanded bat like Byrd, including Seattle and Kansas City, two teams on his no-trade list.

But if the Phillies like the return from either of those teams, it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility for them to help pay a portion of Byrd's contract (he might want his 2016 vesting option picked up to OK a trade). It's prospects and young players the Phillies need, and money that they have.

The Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals have been reported as possible fits for Burnett.

But the Cardinals traded for Cleveland righthander Justin Masterson yesterday afternoon and Pittsburgh is probably somewhat bearish on Burnett for the same reasons they were outbid by the Phillies over the winter - they don't want to be on the hook for his contract next year. Burnett could make as much as $12.75 million next season if he makes 30 starts this year and puts off retirement for another season.

The Cole Hamels trade chatter is almost certainly much ado about nothing, and Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley are longshots to go anywhere, too, as both have full no-trade clauses and prefer to stick around. Carlos Ruiz is an intriguing name, but the 2 years remaining on his deal are not appealing to contending teams in need of short-term solutions at catcher (Baltimore, St. Louis).

Jonathan Papelbon was a hot name entering the month, but not so much as the month draws to a close and teams in need of closers have found cheaper options.

Bastardo remains the Phillies' player unofficially crowned Most Likely To Be Traded because he is young, inexpensive and effective. And nearly every contending team (including Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Detroit) would like to add a lefthanded reliever for a postseason push; they're very useful pieces for winning teams, extraneous ones for losing ones.

While other teams already have consummated trades, Amaro obviously still is waiting for the best possible deal. As he walked away from reporters shortly before noon yesterday, he only offered up the current temperature of his trade talks with a hand signal.

Amaro put his index finger and thumb together, showing the international sign for "zero." Phillies fans yearning for change had better hope Amaro does in fact have a secret plan up his sleeve.

Cliff's chances

Cliff Lee's chances of hightailing it from Philadelphia and hooking on with a contender in the next month can increase today.

Not because he's likely to be traded before the 4 p.m. deadline. But because he's making his third start since returning from the disabled list against Washington at Nationals Park.

Lee, who missed 2 months with a left elbow strain, is 0-1 with a 7.59 ERA since rejoining the rotation after the All-Star break. He has allowed nine runs on 21 hits in 10 2/3 innings, while striking out seven and walking three.

For a better frame of reference: Lee struck out 40 while walking only four batters in 41 innings in six starts to begin the season. But manager Ryne Sandberg has reason to believe Lee will bounce back tonight.

"His [in-between starts] bullpen was better," Sandberg said. "The ball was just coming out of his hand a little bit better. It had a little bit more zip at home plate, which had been lacking. So I look for improvement."

If Lee begins pitching well, he could be an intriguing candidate for contending teams who missed out on Jon Lester and other trade-deadline pitchers this week. Lee, who is owed $37.5 million after this season, is likely to clear through waivers, which would allow the Phillies to trade him.


Jimmy Rollins, given a regular day off yesterday, hit a pinch-hit homer off Zack Wheeler to lead off the seventh inning. It was Rollins' second career pinch-hit home run; the other came on April 19, 2009, vs. San Diego. Rollins is just one of five players in baseball with at least 15 home runs and 15 stolen bases this year, joining Carlos Gomez, Andrew McCutchen, Todd Frazier and Brian Dozier . . . Ryan Howard had his right arm iced after the game after being hit by a Dana Eveland pitch in the seventh inning. "Right above the elbow," Howard said. "It got away from him, nothing intentional" . . . Darin Ruf, who started in place of Howard for three straight games last week, was out of the lineup for the third straight game. Ruf was in the lineup in four of his first seven games after being recalled from Triple A on July 21.

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21


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