A trade could be near

ST. LOUIS — Ruben Amaro Jr. wore one of those patented smug looks on his face. The Phillies general manager had just demoted his fifth starter without listing a replacement in the rotation for him.

“I think we know exactly what we're going to do,” Amaro said. “I just choose not to tell you.”

Well then.

The Phillies sent righthander Kyle Kendrick to triple-A Lehigh Valley on Tuesday, a day after he allowed seven runs in five innings to the Cardinals. In his place, righthander Andrew Carpenter was recalled. Carpenter, normally a starter, will serve as an extra arm in the bullpen.

Amaro said Kendrick’s spot could be filled by someone from within the organization, like J.A. Happ. But Happ started for Lehigh Valley on Tuesday and it would be hard seeing him make his return to the majors on short rest Saturday. Amaro said no one other than Carpenter, Happ or Nelson Figueroa, who was recently designated for assignment and has yet to pass through waivers, is considered an internal candidate.

That means a trade could be imminent. Amaro did nothing to dissuade that notion, saying Saturday’s starter could come from outside the organization.

“We have other balls in the air,” Amaro said.

Those, presumably, are the names bandied about in the rumor mills over the last month. The Phillies have reportedly scouted Oakland pitcher Ben Sheets with two different scouts in the last month. Sheets pitched Tuesday for the A’s and would be in line to start Saturday.

Houston’s Roy Oswalt and Arizona’s Dan Haren are at the top of the list of available pitchers, but both could cost top prospect Domonic Brown, a deal the Phillies would not complete. They made sure to not include Brown in the Roy Halladay trade during the off-season.

Baltimore’s Jeremy Guthrie, Cleveland’s Fausto Carmona and Jake Westbrook along with Chicago’s Ted Lilly are other pitchers reportedly on the market.

Whomever the Phillies have in mind, Amaro appears to be confident in something happening — even if he won’t let on. When asked if he is optimistic a deal could be completed

“Not necessarily,” Amaro said. “But I like to think we can do something to improve the club.”

Read Wednesday's Inquirer for more...