MIAMI - It is bad business to wave a proverbial white flag 30 days before the trade deadline, and that is why Ruben Amaro Jr. preached patience Tuesday. There is no need for the Phillies general manager to sacrifice leverage with other teams by proclaiming his roster for sale. And it is important to maintain an illusion of competitiveness for the paying customers.
"My mind is open to everything," Amaro said Tuesday. "We'll listen to everything. We'll try to assess the most advantageous move we can make, and we'll go from there."
That is the closest Amaro would admit to rebuilding, retooling, or whatever the applicable label. The public message need not match the team's intentions, at least not yet. Amaro and his staff are entertaining offers for their veteran players.
Justin De Fratus gave up the winning hit in the 11th inning of a 5-4 loss to Miami on Tuesday night. The Phillies have 12 games to play before breaking for the All-Star Game. Those games, Amaro said before the team's fifth straight loss, "are going to tell us a lot about where we're going to go." Is there not yet enough evidence?
"We've been assessing this thing and will continue to do so all the way through this month," Amaro said. "If there are things we can't do in this next month as far as trying to improve the club, for the long term or the short term, then we'll try to figure it out afterwards and in the offseason."
The embattled Amaro, who is under contract through 2015, may not preside over those offseason fixes. Team president David Montgomery offered a vote of confidence two weeks ago. Those sentiments could change by the conclusion of this season.
"I'm not worried about my job," Amaro said. "My job is to try to do what's best for the organization, short term and long term. I feel very good about our ability and our staff's ability to do that."
Upper management, for now, believes a five-year rebuilding effort is not prudent. Then again, no team but Houston has publicly admitted such a plan.
"I can't blow this team up for five years and expect us to be [poor] for the next five or six years," Amaro said. "I don't think that's the right way to go about our franchise. Our fans, our organization, I think we owe it to a lot of people, if we do have to go into a transition, it's going to be a shorter one than that.
"There's ways to do it. You have to make shrewd moves, make intelligent moves, and try to continue to do that so that the drop-off isn't long term. So if we have to go a step backward for a year or two to move forward, then that's what we'll try to do."
Two such assets, starters Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett, experienced mixed results Tuesday. Lee, sidelined since May 18 with a strained left elbow, threw a 60-pitch simulated game. His timetable suggests an August trade is far likelier than one before July 31.
The plan is for Lee to start Sunday for single-A Clearwater. He would throw 75 pitches then. Another rehab start of 90 pitches could come after. That puts Lee on track to pitch in one of the first games after the all-star break, which allows for a maximum of three starts before the trade deadline. A contending team is not wont to unload a bounty of prospects without extensive proof that Lee has overcome his elbow ailment.
Burnett threw six erratic innings in defeat. He struck out 10 - one of which came on a wild pitch that scored a run - but walked four. The 37-year-old righthander has a 3.92 ERA this season. He chose the Phillies over retirement because he wanted one more chance at a championship. Amaro offered Burnett $16 million and proximity to his Maryland home.
Like Lee, Burnett holds a limited no-trade clause. He could be compelled to join a contender.
"I don't even want to think about any of that," Burnett said. "I only want to think about tomorrow and getting back on a winning streak. That's where I'm at. I try not to get involved in all of that until I have to."
Jeff Baker began the Marlins rally in the 11th with a pinch-hit single off De Fratus. Christian Yelich sacrificed him to second, and Ed Lucas ended it with a base hit to right.
De Fratus saw his 18-inning scoreless streak end.