THE JULY 31 trading deadline may seem to be little more than a chimera glistening on a faraway horizon. In fact, it arrives in fewer than 7 weeks, 48 days that will pass in a blink.

So with Phillies president Dave Montgomery's "shame on us" if the team doesn't do what it can to improve declaration still ringing in our ears, here's a look at some of the more alluring starting pitchers who could be available.

Related stories

* Indians lefthander C.C. Sabathia. It's true that the Phillies probably don't have the kind of prospects Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro would like. But Sabathia is a free agent at the end of the season and no team is going to give up the farm system to rent a player for a couple months. Especially not one looking for a Johan Santana-like contract.

One of three things can happen, here. The Tribe strikes a deal with a team - the Yankees come to mind - that can afford to work out an extension with him as a condition of the deal. They decide to take the best offer on the table in the hours before the deadline. Or they hold onto Sabathia, let him walk and take the compensatory draft choices next June.

The Phillies would root for the second scenario. Shapiro was somewhat vague when asked about the possibility of trading the defending AL Cy Young winner, who is 4-8 with a 4.34 earned run average but has pitched better lately after a horrid start. "One, we have to get the right value in return," he said, speaking about trades in general. "And, two, we have to feel it's the thing to do for the team. Both conditions have to be there for us to make [any] move."

* Mariners lefthander Erik Bedard. There have already been rumors that the Phillies would be a logical landing spot for Bedard (4-4, 4.26) as Seattle's season continues to crumble. The suggestion is that the Phillies would package a bundle of their top prospects in exchange for a guy the M's gave up a lot to get before the start of the season.

It remains to be seen if the Phillies are willing to empty their minor league cupboard. Bedard is making $7 million this year and can't be a free agent until 2010. He's also an introverted sort and some wonder if he would thrive in a city like Philadelphia, New York or Boston.

* Blue Jays righthander A.J. Burnett. Whether Burnett (5-6, 4.98) is even available probably depends on whether Toronto is still in the race by late July. If the Jays fall from contention, there will be pressure to move a pitcher who is expected to use his escape clause to opt out of his contract at the end of the year.

* Padres righthander Greg Maddux: The 350-game winner has a no-trade clause and has talked about how much he enjoys pitching in San Diego. But would he enjoy another shot at the playoffs more, even if it meant making his home starts in Citizens Bandbox Park? Plenty of teams will be interested if he's willing to move.

* Other names to contemplate: Indians righthander Paul Byrd, Padres lefthander Randy Wolf, Twins righthander Livan Hernandez, Mariners righthander Miguel Batista and Nationals lefthander Odalis Perez.

The hot corner

* No matter how many games the Royals lose, it doesn't appear that righthander

Gil Meche

will be traded. "If we're going to make a run at this thing in 2010, how are we going to do it without Gil Meche?" a club official asked the

Kansas City Star

.

* Early speculation has the Yankees declining Jason Giambi's $22 million option for next season and using the money to try to sign Atlanta's Mark Teixeira, who will be a free agent.

Around the bases

* Note to

Brett Myers

:

Ryan Dempster

was the Cubs' closer last year. This season he moved to the rotation and is 8-2, 2.81. "He came to camp ready to fight [

Oscar

]

De La Hoya

for 15 rounds," manager

Lou Piniella

said. "He was in shape and on a mission."

* The Toronto Star points out that baseball is on pace to hit more than 1,000 fewer home runs this season than the 5,386 that were clubbed as recently as 2006.

* Yes, the Cubs will miss Alfonso Soriano. But they were 10-5 while he was on the DL with a strained calf earlier this year.

ON DECK

JEERS: To righthander Sidney Ponson. Despite spending time in jail in his native Aruba for allegedly assaulting a judge, being suspended by the Orioles for a pair of alcohol-related incidents within 9 months and being released by the Twins last year, Ponson got yet another chance when the Rangers signed him after a workout this spring. And he blew it again. There was reportedly an ugly incident in a Tampa Bay hotel bar recently when he was asked to leave, challenged the bartender to a fight and had to be escorted out ... the night before he started and was hit hard. Then he reacted negatively when manager Ron Washington took him out of his next start. Finally, he threw a hissy fit when told his next start would be pushed back a day to accommodate Kevin Millwood and he was designated for assignment. This is just more proof that you can't help somebody who won't help himself.

CHEERS: For Rangers management, which released Ponson even though, at 4-1, 3.88, he was one of their best pitchers. Before offering the troubled righthander a contract, Texas officials made it clear to Ponson that no foolishness would be tolerated.

"I had hopes that things were going to change for him," club president Nolan Ryan said. "I was surprised to hear about things, but if you are going to develop a championship club, you've got to stay consistent when things like this pop up."

BY THE NUMBERS:

2: Wins in his last 15 starts for 42-year-old Braves lefthander Tom Glavine, who is now on the disabled list for the second time this year.

3: Reds shortstops on the disabled list: Jerry Hairston, Alex Gonzalez and Jeff Keppinger. When asked, manager Dusty Baker said, no, he didn't think the position was "cursed."

9: Yankees players who make more this season than Oakland's highest-salaried player, third baseman Eric Chavez, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

16,003: Announced crowd at Dolphin Stadium when Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 600th career home run. Yikes.

UP NEXT: The second round of interleague play begins today; Phillies at Cardinals is the lone exception. There are some interesting matchups this time around. Two first-place teams, Red Sox and Angels, visit Citizens Bank Park next week. Beginning next weekend, the Cubs and White Sox play each other six out of nine games. It figures to be the first time the crosstown rivals have met when both led their divisions.

Weeklings

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Mets outfielder Moises Alou, on why he thinks New York can still catch the Phillies: "They made up 7 1/2 games [on New York] in 3 weeks, right? We've got what, like 30 weeks left? That's a long way to go."

It's actually 15 1/2 weeks, but you get the point.

WALL STREET NOTE OF THE WEEK: The approved bidders interested in buying the Cubs got a look at the team's finances this week. According to the Chicago Tribune, it showed that the team had a cash flow of $31 million on revenues of about $250 million last year.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Going into play yesterday, home teams were 571-409 this season, a .583 winning percentage. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, as reported by the New York Daily News, that would be the most lopsided percentage since 1931, when the team that batted last won at a .582 pace. Since then it's been as high as .570 only once: .573 in 1978.

IDEA OF THE WEEK: Cubs manager Lou Piniella said he will consider using pitcher Carlos Zambrano as the designated hitter during interleague play. Hmmmm. While Zambrano is a threat at the plate - .362, one homer, six RBI in 47 at-bats - just imagine how that would make the team's bench players feel.

Finally

Here's another reason to feel good about

Ken Griffey Jr.

hitting his 600th career homer on Monday:

He was still stuck on 599 the day before when, with the game still in progress, a woman with three boys asked for his autograph. He politely told her, "I can't sign during the game." With that, the mother and her sons began ridiculing him and the mother said, "You stink and no wonder your team is losing so bad."

Many players would have responded in kind, and probably been justified for doing it. Others would have just turned their back. But Griffey, late in the game, walked close to where they were seated, handed them three autographed baseballs and silently walked away.

Pretty classy.