Either way, there was a good chance Charlie Manuel was going to leave Citizens Bank Park in a foul mood yesterday.

It just so happened that his team embarrassed itself in a 12-3 loss to the Florida Marlins. That made the manager's bad mood more readily attainable.

Even if the Phillies had won yesterday's game, Manuel could have found reason to be a little edgy as he headed into today's off day.

The Phillies organization is in the process of making a thorny decision and Manuel is the point man, the guy who might have to deliver some difficult news to a man who has earned a lifetime worth of respect in this town.

The Phils open a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs tomorrow night at Wrigley Field. As of nightfall yesterday, they still had not announced their starting rotation. That's very unusual.

It's possible that Pedro Martinez will get one of those starts, and that would likely result in Jamie Moyer's being bounced from the rotation.

You don't need to be a weatherman to know that's the way the wind is blowing. Even the fans know it. Moyer started against the Marlins yesterday. On his way off the mound in the sixth inning, a number of fans, the ones who get it, stood and gave the guy a standing ovation.

Manuel would rather eat his shoe than hurt Moyer. The 46-year-old lefthander is one of the most revered people in the Phillies' organization. That's why the Phils asked him to speak at Harry Kalas' memorial service in the spring. Moyer has been a gift to the franchise and this city since arriving in August 2006. He has won ball games, mentored teammates, done marvelous charitable works, and been an all-around stellar person.

As loath as Manuel is to hurt Moyer, he may have to do that today, or tomorrow, or whenever he announces his rotation for the next few days.

Moyer has a 5.47 ERA in 22 starts.

The Phillies need better than that. Martinez is ready to start. The Phils have an obligation to take a look at him and see if he can do better.

In his heart, Moyer knows this is the way it has to be. He's been around too long and he's too smart not to know how this game works.

Still, Moyer claimed he hasn't kept up with the issue, the six-arms-for-five-spots riddle that has hovered since Cliff Lee arrived 10 days ago. After yesterday's game, Moyer actually implied that the matter was a media creation. Doesn't he know that most media outlets in this town have a hiring freeze? The media didn't hire Pedro; the Phillies did.

There's no guarantee that Martinez will provide an upgrade. Heck, he had a 5.61 ERA in 20 starts for the Mets last year. He could be a bust. If that's the case, Moyer could find himself back in the rotation in a few weeks. But for now, it appears he could be headed for some down time as the team finds out what Pedro has left.

If yesterday was Moyer's last start for a while, he can take solace in the fact that he kept the game under control, though he didn't last long enough. For the fourth time in his last six starts, his official line read: five innings pitched. He was charged with three runs. Who knows, his fate might have been different if the offense wasn't so flat again.

Throughout his career, Moyer has owned the Marlins, going 13-2 in 15 starts before yesterday. A master at controlling the pace of a game, Moyer has had the ability to prey on the Marlins' aggressive hitters. But yesterday, Florida hitters kept things simple. They nickel-and-dimed him for 11 hits, all singles.

"We tried to do it with his own medicine," Cody Ross said. "The softer he throws, the softer you hit."

Moyer was a contributor but hardly the culprit in the loss. The Phils have lost eight of their last 11 and have scored three or fewer runs in seven of those losses. A lead once as big as seven games in the National League East has been reduced to four mostly by poor hitting with runners in scoring position. The Phils had a chance to do damage in the sixth inning yesterday. The Marlins were ahead, 3-1. Ryan Howard was up with two outs and two men on base. He swung at a 3-and-1 pitch that was outside the strike zone, then took a full-count fastball at the knees to end the threat.

After Howard's strikeout, the Phils imploded so badly that Manuel called a postgame team meeting. This team has a history of responding to Big Chuck's words. We'll see if it does this time, because this race has a long way to go and the Phils have let the Marlins (and Braves) right back in it.

As for that other matter that seems to be causing him consternation, Manuel could announce his pitching rotation for the Cubs series today. The last thing he wants to do is hurt someone like Jamie Moyer. But it's time to find out about Martinez, and Moyer's performance makes him the likely odd man out.