Notes: Team roster likely set

Notes: Team likely set

PHILADELPHIA -- General manager Pat Gillick said Tuesday the current group of Phillies likely will be the ones to begin Spring Training next month.

That doesn't mean they'll leave together for the April 2 regular-season opener.

"I can't tell you this is the team we'll end with, but it's the one we'll start with," Gillick said.

The suggestion allows for the increasingly likely scenario that Philadelphia will bring six starting pitchers to Clearwater, Fla., next month -- Freddy Garcia, Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, Adam Eaton, Jamie Moyer and Jon Lieber -- and wait for a situation to present itself at some point.

If not?

"If we can't get what we think is equal value, we'll go with six [starters in the regular season]," Gillick said. "We're not going to give somebody away."

After acquiring Garcia during the Winter Meetings, the Phillies fielded many offers for their extra starter, believed to be Lieber, but they couldn't find a setup man they desired in return. There still is hope, though they know they need be flexible and patient.

"A few teams are still trolling to see what their options are," said Mike Arbuckle, the team's assistant GM, scouting and player development. "The trouble is using that starter to fill the eighth-inning role is tough because of those clubs that still need a starter don't have what we need in return."

Potential partners could be the Pirates and the Rangers, though each one presents difficulties. The Pirates have relievers to trade, but they are believed to be dangling them for coveted Atlanta first baseman Adam LaRoche. Pittsburgh also is believed to be interested in free agent Brian Lawrence.

The Rangers could part with Akinori Otsuka, but they seem more likely to keep him as insurance for closer Eric Gagne. Joaquin Benoit and Scott Feldman could be possibilities, assuming the Phillies were interested.

Before Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel tries to figure out which starter to use out of the bullpen or begins mapping out a six-man rotation, know that much can happen over the next two months. Injuries and ineffectiveness have a tendency to create needs, and the excess starting pitching doesn't stay excess for long.

The Phillies just thought it would be done by now, especially since they're offering a pitcher with no financial commitment beyond 2007.

"There was a lot of action at the Winter Meetings, and it really slowed up," Arbuckle said. "We may have to get it sorted out in Spring Training. Somebody always goes down or somebody they brought in doesn't work out. The same urgency doesn't exist in January."

On Alfonseca: Though the team's agreement with free agent Antonio Alfonseca won't be official until he passes a physical, Arbuckle explained the appeal of the veteran reliever.

Arbuckle said new special assistant Charlie Kerfeld saw Alfonseca in winter ball and said good things. He reported a velocity of around 92 mph with good movement and a sharp slider.

"He had real good command of the strike zone," Arbuckle said. "We'll see what he looks like in Spring Training, but with his experience, he could end up being an eighth-inning guy. It's not a significant investment to find out."

The contract is believed to be for close to the Major League minimum, but it could balloon to $1.1 million if Alfonseca makes the team and earns other performance incentives.

While still beefy, Arbuckle thought Alfonseca had the potential to pitch multiple innings. Arbuckle added that the right-hander doesn't necessarily end the team's search for bullpen help.

Trying Dobbs: The Phillies added to their stable of left-handed possibilities by claiming infielder Greg Dobbs off waivers from the Mariners. Another player whom Gillick is familiar with from his previous job, the 28-year-old split last season between Triple-A Tacoma and Seattle.

Philling in: Ryan Madson confessed to getting "three hours of sleep a night" since his wife Sara gave birth to twins on Christmas Eve. ... Assistant GM Ruben Amaro Jr. appeared at the Winter Caravan on crutches, the result of a broken ankle sustained in a fall at home. He explained he was chasing after his daughter and took a tumble.

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