Lefthander Romero likely to test free agency

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It looks as if lefthander J.C. Romero could be pitching elsewhere next season.

Romero, who played a major role this season in helping the Phillies win their first National League East championship since 1993, appears far apart from the Phillies in early contract negotiations.

"We have had some discussions," said Dan Lozano, Romero's agent from the Beverly Hills Sports Council. "But I'm not too optimistic at this point. I'm waiting to hear back from the Phillies."

The Phillies remain hopeful they can get something done.

"We would consider it a priority to bring J.C. back," said Ruben Amaro Jr., the Phillies' assistant general manager. "He played a very, very important role for us down the stretch. We also gave him that opportunity to play that role after being released [by Boston]. I think it was mutually beneficial for both of us.

"If we had our druthers, we'd bring him back and we wouldn't let him get on the market. But as a free agent, he has every right to test the marketplace. That does not mean if he tests the free-agent market that we have severed ties. We certainly will continue to try to bring him back."

Romero would be a considerable loss from the Phils' bullpen. The 31-year-old went 1-2 with a 1.24 ERA in 51 appearances for the Phillies. He pitched extensively with closer Brett Myers and Tom Gordon in the final month of the season as the Phillies overcame a seven-game deficit to the New York Mets with 17 games to play.

The Phillies have few in-house candidates to replace him if he leaves. Lefthander Mike Zagurski (1-0, 5.91 ERA in 25 appearances) finished the season on the disabled list with a strained hamstring. Lefthander Fabio Castro (0-0, 6.00 ERA in 10 appearances) has not proven he can be a situational lefthander. And lefthander Matt Smith (0-0, 11.25 ERA in nine appearances) had Tommy John surgery in July.

These certainly are things the Phillies will discuss early next week, when they hold their organizational meetings.

Romero signed a one-year, $1.6 million contract with the Boston Red Sox before the 2007 season, but he seems in line for a considerable raise with more guaranteed years.

Other potential free-agent lefthanded relievers include Colorado's Jeremy Affeldt (4-3, 3.51 ERA in 75 appearances) and Washington's Ray King (1-1, 4.76 in 67 appearances). Last season, relief pitchers such as righthander Justin Speier (four years, $18 million) and lefthander Jamie Walker (three years, $12 million) received considerable contracts. Those could be good indicators when thinking about what Romero could be seeking.

The Phillies will continue to have exclusive negotiating rights with Romero until two weeks after the final game of the World Series. If a deal is not struck by then, Romero hits the open market.

LaMar joins Phils. The Phillies named former Tampa Bay Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar to be their director of professional scouting.

LaMar, 51, worked this season with the Washington Nationals as special assistant to the general manager and national cross-checker. He served as Tampa Bay's GM from 1995 to 2005.

The fall league. Lefthander Joe Savery, the team's first-round pick in June, is 0-1 with a 0.00 ERA in two starts for the Peoria Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League.

Third baseman Mike Costanzo, the Archbishop Carroll graduate and the team's top pick in 2005, is hitting .175 (7 for 40) with two home runs and five RBIs. He has struck out 16 times. Outfielder Greg Golson, the team's first-round pick in 2004, is hitting .214 (9 for 42) with no homers and five RBIs.

Extra bases. Righthanders Kane Davis and Yoel Hernandez were outrighted and have elected free agency.


Contact staff writer Todd Zolecki at 215-854-4874 or tzolecki@phillynews.com.

Read his blog at http://go.philly.com/zozone.