This time, there were no issues when a lefthanded reliever came to Philadelphia for a physical to finalize a contract.
So J.C. Romero is officially back, with the Phillies announcing the one-year, $1.35 million deal Thursday. Romero, who turns 35 in June, is taking a significant pay cut to return for his fifth season. His deal also includes performance bonuses.
Romero made $4 million in 2010. Shortly after the season ended, the Phillies declined a $4.5 million option for 2011, instead paying him a $250,000 buyout.
The Phillies had found a replacement for Romero earlier in the off-season when they agreed in principle to a one-year, $1.1 million deal with Dennys Reyes. But the two sides could not finalize the contract following Reyes' physical in Philadelphia.
Now, with Romero in the fold, the Phillies have five spots locked up in the 2011 bullpen — Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, Jose Contreras, Danys Baez and Romero. There is still a need for a middle reliever who can pitch multiple innings — the very role Chad Durbin has filled before. Durbin remains a free agent.
But when asked if the team could add another reliever via free agency, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. made it sound as if the team is done with signings.
"We're probably pretty comfortable with where we stand," Amaro said. "I frankly would like to see people battle out for spots in the bullpen, on the bench and right field."
A baseball source said the Phillies had made a formal offer to Durbin earlier this off-season and Durbin's side countered. But the question is whether both sides can come to an agreement on a salary. Durbin made $2.125 million in 2010 and is believed to be seeking a raise.
The Phillies, who have a payroll north of $160 million, may have decided money is limited for Durbin.
There also is the factor of having four ace pitchers on a staff that already threw the fewest innings of any bullpen in the National League during 2010. Relievers, especially middle relievers, could be de-emphasized should the Phillies' starting pitchers regularly pitch deep into games as expected.
Amaro would not rule out breaking camp with a smaller bullpen, but said there is plenty of time for that decision to be made.
"Clearly, if our rotation stays intact, we have a chance to build innings there," Amaro said. "A lot of it will depend on how things shake out. The players will help make the decisions."
The Phillies now have 41 players on the 40-man roster and will make a roster move at a later date to make room for Romero.