The Phillies believe they are going to add a quality arm and a terrific right-handed bat to their roster in the near future regardless of what general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. does before Sunday's trade deadline.
And those two additions could be far more important to the team's long-term success this season than any deal Amaro can or cannot pull off with another big-league club.
If all goes according to plan, righthander Roy Oswalt, the arm the Phillies added at the trade deadline last season, will be back in the starting rotation early next month. He'll attempt to pass his first major test since going on the disabled list with a bulging disc in his back when he pitches for triple-A Lehigh Valley Wednesday night at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown.
Oswalt is on record as saying he hopes to rejoin the Phillies after his scheduled 60-pitch rehab outing, but Amaro would not commit to that scenario.
"I like his optimism," the general manager said. "We'll talk after he pitches and see how he feels and see how much he needs to get stretched out. He's supposed to throw 60, but he may force us to want to pitch more, I don't know. We'll see how he feels after he pitches."
Oswalt's outing at Lehigh Valley should be a fascinating measuring stick. When we last saw him during a late June outing in St. Louis, he was in acute pain that affected both his ability to throw hard and throw strikes. When right, Oswalt is capable of throwing in the mid-90s with outstanding location and a variety of pitches that nearly matches Roy Halladay's arsenal.
If that Oswalt shows up in an IronPigs uniform Wednesday, the Phillies could soon have five aces for the first time this season.
"Right now, he feels great," Amaro said. "He's got a bulging disc and that can be bothersome. Obviously, the shots have worked and now he has been able to do some exercises that has helped take some of the pressure off the nerves. That was part of the problem. He wasn't able to do those exericeses that allowed him to do the prehab that is neccessary. The fact he is feeling good and able to do those exercises, that helps him. I'm cautiously optimistic ... but backs are tricky."
The last time Oswalt was shut down with lingering back pain was 2009, but there is no good way to compare that situation to this one because it occurred at the end of the season with Houston. He did return in top form in 2010.
The right-handed bat the Phillies so badly want to add to their lineup is third baseman Placido Polanco, who fielded ground balls for the second straight day Monday and also took batting practice in the indoor cages at Citizens Bank Park. Polanco, who is also recovering from a lingering back problem, said he expects to begin a rehab assignment Thursday at Lehigh Valley. He said he believes he'll be ready to rejoin the Phillies Saturday against Pittsburgh.
Amaro said he likes Polanco's optimism, too, but nothing is definite about his return.
As for the trade deadline, Amaro talked about it without saying much of anything Monday.
"I enjoy listening to all the commentary," he said. "It's pretty entertaining. It's not any different than any other year. It's all the same. We just try to operate as we normally do. There is nothing all that different except there is a deadline."
A league source said Monday that the Phillies have scouts in Cincinnati following the New York Mets Carlos Beltran.
"I think people should know how difficult doing trades are and how different the needs are from year to year," Amaro said. "We're still not sure what our needs are yet. We're still assessing injuries and that kind of stuff."
Another shot for Contreras
Amaro said reliever Jose Contreras is scheduled to have another injection Tuesday to relieve the lingering elbow pain that has shut him down since June 20.
"He has lingering stiffness and hopefully we can get that out," Amaro said.
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