FOR THE LAST five seasons, no Giants player - not even Barry Bonds - drove in more runs than Pedro Feliz. And only Bonds hit more home runs for San Francisco.

Feliz had a .973 fielding percentage last season, tops among National League third basemen. And his 11 errors were third fewest among those with at least 300 total chances.

So it wasn't surprising that Phillies assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. had a big smile on his face when he stepped to the podium yesterday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park and formally introduced Feliz, who earlier in the week had agreed to a 2-year contract plus an option that guarantees him $8.5 million. The contract became official after he passed a physical yesterday.

Signing the 32-year-old, Amaro proclaimed, was a "great opportunity," and added, "He's certainly a winning player. He's had a tremendous amount of success and a tremendous amount of steady success."

Well, then . . .

Why would the Giants, a team that finished next to last in runs scored in 2007, make so little effort to keep him? Why, in fact, would they offer him less than the $5 million he made last season and why did he end up having to take a pay cut to come to the Phillies?

"I don't know," Feliz said softly. "I would love to know. But I don't know why."

One ranking baseball official with intimate knowledge of the San Francisco front office, offered this opinion:

"He has the ability, the raw tools," he said. "He has the potential to be a pretty decent player. His raw numbers are pretty good. And he's a manager's dream, an outstanding young man who doesn't complain about anything.

"But then you see him swing at a 1-2 slider in the dirt with two outs and the tying run on third. Or you know that he's a pretty good third baseman with a superb arm, yet when a big play is needed, he sometimes drops the throw.

"Maybe somebody can get to him. But you look at his on-base percentage [.288] and the other things and he just wasn't consistent enough."

It could be that a change of scenery will be good for Feliz and that the remaining pieces will fall into place for him. What the Phillies are betting, though, is less complicated. They simply hope that he'll be better, both offensively and defensively, than the platoon of Wes Helms and Greg Dobbs would have been.

At the outset of the offseason, the Phillies stated publicly that every resource they had would be poured into improving the pitching. Getting Feliz, Amaro said yesterday, is an indirect way of accomplishing that goal.

"Defense was a very important part of it," he said. "Pitching and defense rules the day. We continue to believe that. We already had a quality offensive club. There's no question that we already have three of the best offensive players in baseball [Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley] on the other part of our infield.

"But the fact of the matter is we felt like this was an important piece to add, too, to give our pitchers some relief, to catch the baseball. That's important. We've got to get outs and Pedro's done that consistently. So we're pleased to add not just his offense but his defense."

Feliz was asked whether he could have imagined leaving the only organization he'd ever known. "No. I hadn't thought about it," he said. "I was going out there every day, ready to play when I was there. It's part of the business. I was happy to be there the many years I was there. I enjoyed playing for the Giants. And I'm happy to be here now."

Since Feliz has hit at least 20 homers each of the last 4 years playing his home games in pitcher-friendly AT&T Park, it's natural to wonder whether his power numbers might go up in the Phillies' cozy little playpen, plunked down in a more potent lineup.

"It might be different. I think it will be different with all the hitters we have in Philadelphia. But what's going to be the difference? Let's wait until the season starts and see what happens," he suggested.

"I'm just going to come here and not put pressure on myself by trying to hit the ball way out of the park. I'm just going to try to hit the ball good and be consistent. Sometimes [looking at the shorter fences] makes you try to overdo it and you wouldn't get a good result."

Amaro acknowledged the Phillies now have a logjam at third.

"We do have a lot of bodies and we'll have to work through it," he said. "As we always say, things have a way of working themselves out in spring training. People do get injured. Stranger things have happened. We'll just kind of play it out."

He added Helms could be traded before the first full squad workout in Clearwater on Feb. 19, but also could still be wearing a Phillies uniform at that point.

As recently as a couple of weeks ago, indications were that negotiations with Feliz were going nowhere. "We continued to assess ways we could improve our club," Amaro said. "In a lot of ways, time and circumstance have a lot to do with the moves you make. He was still out there, we could fit him on the payroll and it seemed like the right thing to do for us. So we went ahead and moved forward on it. Bringing him to our club is a heckuva improvement."

Amaro said the Phillies never totally gave up on the idea of signing Feliz.

"We try to stay optimistic that we can do things to improve our club," he said. "We never try to write things off until the fat lady sings, so to speak. We have to continue to try to pound things out to try to improve our club. It doesn't really matter when or how. Just that we can. And I think we've done that."

He also hinted that the Phillies might not be done yet and refused to close the door on re-signing Kyle Lohse, whose demands appear to have fallen dramatically from the 5 years and $50 million he was believed to be seeking when he filed for free agency.

"He's still out there," Amaro said coyly. "I've had a few discussions with [agent Scott Boras] but not real recently. Right now the likelihood of signing Kyle Lohse is probably fairly low."

Lower than getting Feliz was 2 weeks ago?

"You never know, man," he said with a laugh. "We have things to do. We're still trying to improve our club."

Phillers

The Phillies' 40-man roster is technically one over the limit, but Ruben Amaro said the team doesn't have to make an immediate move because Pedro Feliz's contract hasn't been formally approved yet by Major League Baseball . . . Amaro declined to comment on the prospect of Johan Santana going to the division-rival Mets, a trade that could be completed as soon as today if Santana and the Mets can agree on a contract extension. In the meantime, a National League source said the Phillies called the Twins about Santana but were told he wouldn't waive his no-trade clause to come to Philadelphia. In fact, the source said that in the end he would have accepted a move only to the Mets or Red Sox . . . Amaro said the Phillies are looking forward to seeing how much righthander Kris Benson, who missed all last season following shoulder surgery, has improved when they watch him throw next week in the Atlanta area. "We're keeping an open mind," he said . . . Amaro also insisted that the Phillies still have money to spend. "We're not tapped out. We have a budget and responsibility to that budget," he said . . . The Phillies have signed their first-ever European player, 17-year-old first and third baseman Jakub Sladek from the Czech Republic. They also have signed Todd Van Steensel, a 17-year-old righthander from Sydney, Australia. *